5% BoE budget increase pays for 1.5% teacher pay hikes

With the first budget increase in more than five years, the system still plans to spend $3 million more than it collects in revenue

The Fayette County Board of Education on May 19 unanimously approved a $170.5 million tentative budget for the 2014-2015 school year that begins in July.

That’s a nearly 5 percent increase over the current year’s budget, the first budget growth in at least five years.

Even so, the school system plans to spend nearly $3 million more than it takes in for the coming year by reaching into leftover unspent funds from this year’s budget.

Teachers and other salaried employees will get a 1.5 percent pay raise, while other non-teacher employees with five years of service will receive a one-step pay increase. The system also will hire an additional 39 parapros.

The tentative budget showed total revenues of $167.7 million, a $4.33 million increase over the current year, while expenditures total $170.5 million. The school board plans to use $2.8 million in available fund balance from this year to adopt the budget next month. Doing so will maintain another $2 million in the FY 2015 fund balance along with another $17 million in reserves.

Assistant Superintendent Tom Gray provided a breakdown of the revenue side showing a projected $167.7 million in receipts and $170.5 million in expenses.

Revenues include a $1.1 million increase in state funds, thus raising those revenues to $85.14 million. On the local revenue side, property taxes look to increase to $71 million, up $2.2 million. That amount could increase given that the budget, which is conservative in nature, is calculated on a flat tax digest. Preliminary figures from the Fayette County Tax Assessor are showing what could amount to an increase of 3 percent or more in the 2014 tax digest.

Revenue from auto tags is expected to increase slightly, from approximately $8 million in the current budget to $8.5 million in FY 2015.

On the expense side, the tentative budget includes a 1.5 percent pay increase for all employees on pre-set salary scales, a step increase for classified (non-teacher) employees with at least five years of service, the addition of 39 parapros and other more minor expenses.

The tentative $170.5 million in expenses is offset by anticipated revenues totaling $167.7 million, a difference of $2.8 million. Gray recommended that a portion of the FY 2014 fund balance be used to make up the difference. The school board agreed. As approved, the FY 2015 tentative budget will still carry a $2.05 million fund balance.

It might appear that the school board is cutting things close fiscally. But that is not the case since the board last year finally had the votes to establish a reserve fund totaling 10 percent of expenses. That amount, or $17.045 million, is still in reserve for FY 2015 and was not a part of the calculations Gray provided.

The school board will adopt the budget in June.