It has been years since the Fayette County Board of Education has lived within its means. But that changed Monday night when the board on a 4-1 vote adopted a budget with $162 million in revenues and $162 million in expenditures.
In terms of revenue, the budget anticipates receiving $83.75 million from state sources and $75.75 million from local ad valorem taxes. Fayette County is projected to lose approximately 1 percent of its total value on the 2013 tax digest. While significant, a single percentage point is far from the 12.39 percent Fayette lost on the digest a year ago.
Ongoing personnel cuts by attrition and hiring long-term substitutes rather than replacing some positions were two of the cost-cutting measures instituted just after the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.
Those savings and others are expected to leave the school system with a $11.5 million fund balance on June 30.
Personnel savings are also reflected in the new budget that includes the elimination of more than 300 staff positions and the closure of four schools. It is noteworthy that a large number of staff members retained their jobs through attrition.
A position held by interim Superintendent Dan Colwell was that the new budget should also come with a fund balance sufficient to build up a reserve and offset emergencies. As adopted, the budget includes a July 1, 2014 fund balance totaling $12 million.
Board member Leonard Presberg prior to the vote said he would have preferred that a portion of the $12 million projected fund balance be used to offset other expenses.
The vote on the budget was 4-1, with board member May Kay Bacallao opposed. While she was pleased that the budget was balanced, Bacallao said she had concerns about budget items such as transportation, maintenance and operations and general administration having a higher percentage of the overall budget.
Board member Barry Marchman in response said the dollar amounts assigned to some of those areas decreased even though the percentages in those areas increased slightly compared to the FY 2013 budget.
The school board for the past several years has adopted budgets with expenses far exceeding revenues. For example, the current budget that ends later this month has revenues of $163 million and expenditures of $177 million.
As it had done in the past few years, the school board used the existing fund balance to balance the FY 2013 budget. But the vote to do so last year was not without its own controversy since board members Marion Key and Bob Todd were voted down in their opposition to the budget that was adopted on a 3-2 vote by Presberg and former board members Terri Smith and Janet Smola. Smith was defeated in her reelection bid and Smola did not run again.