Fayette School Board to dip into reserves to fund 2021 budget

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The Fayette County Board of Education on July 20 adopted a $228.84 million tentative General Fund budget for the 2020-2021 school year. The formal adoption will occur on Aug. 10.

The General Fund budget for FY 2020 was $229.45 million, a $610,000 difference from the $228.84 million FY 2021 tentative budget.

Though expenditures are set at $228.84 million, revenues tallied at $218.7 million, which included a $10 decrease from the state due to budget reductions in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. That amount will be made up by using $10.2 million from the school system’s fund balance (reserves).

As a matter of historical perspective, it was approximately a decade ago that the school board first established a reserve, equal to approximately 10 percent of the budget. It took several years to accomplish that move, given that superintendents and a majority of school board members at the time insisted that a reserve account was not needed. Only former school board members Marion Key and Bob Todd continued to call for establishing a reserve account for “rainy day” purposes. They finally prevailed when they had the votes, and the reserve account has been in place since that time.

In terms of revenues for FY 2021, state QBE (quality basic education) funding, which is essentially the amount a school system receives per student attending, increased by $2.7 million due to an increase in the number of students during the past year. The student enrollment number has been inching up for the past few years.

In total, QBE funding for FY 2021 totals $101 million., while property taxes and motor vehicle taxes total approximately $116 million. The difference in revenues and expenditures was made up by using the fund balance (reserves).

Expenditures included no cost-of-living increases or salary increases, though it did include step increases at $2.4 million, an increase of 12.4 school-based teaching positions (mostly at elementary schools) at $2.4 million, a decrease of 8.5 school-based non-teaching positions at $255,000 and an increase of 10 teaching and parapro special education positions at $800,000.

Noted in the budget presentation were the salary and benefits of starting teachers, those with eight years experience and those with 20 years.

A starting teacher earns $43,358 and $22,921 in benefits, for a total compensation of $66,279.

A teacher with eight years experience earns $59,717 and $27,290 in benefits, for a total compensation of $87,007.

A teacher with 20 years experience earns $79,481 with $32,569 in benefits, for a total compensation of $112,050.

Benefits total 32 percent of total compensation, and included health insurance, TRS (teachers retirement system) contributions and the school system’s Social Security contributions.

The school board will hold a second public hearing and adopt the budget on Aug. 10.