Schools budget: More money, more teachers, fewer students


Largest Fayette school budget since Great Recession unveiled; teacher numbers increase, student numbers decrease to 15-year low

While student numbers for the Fayette County School System are projected to fall to the lowest level in more than 15 years this coming August, officials are calling for a budget hike of $6.6 million over the current year plus an addition of 26 new instructional positions.

Preliminary budget discussions by the Fayette County Board of Education for the 2016-2017 school year are just getting started. A tentative budget summary provided March 21 showed expenses of $190.6 million, up from this year’s $184 million.

The proposed budget would be the second largest in the system’s recent history, exceeded only by the 2008-2009 budget of $197 million just as the Great Recession was hitting the local economy.

The system that year accommodated 22,047 students, while projected enrollment beginning in August this year is 19,646, which is 2,401 students fewer than eight years ago.

For comparison, the system just three years ago in 2013-2014 spent $162 million to educate 20,166 students, 520 more students than will show up for classes in August.

The preliminary budget for the coming year is for $28.6 million more than three years ago, with the equivalent of one elementary school less enrollment.

The discussion Monday night was only preliminary, noted Assistant Superintendent for Finance Tom Gray.

With that, Gray presented a tentative budget summary with $190,594,7820 in expenses. That compares to the $184 million in effect this school year.

With a difference of a potential $6.6 million over the current budget, the biggest difference would come in the form of a 3 percent cost of living increase that totals $4.2 million. The tentative budget also includes $2.1 million in additional salary costs.

The budget tentatively comes with the the addition of 26 new positions connected to the classroom.

Revenues are currently projected to total $187.3 million. The fund balance will make up the difference between revenues and expenses.

In all, approximately 89 percent of the school system’s budget is in personnel costs.

The school board will continue budget discussions through the spring and will adopt the 2016-2017 budget in June.