2019-20 School Budget approved; majority of budget priorities funded

The Pulaski County School Board on Tuesday reluctantly approved a final version of its 2019-20 budget for next fiscal year.

The final version of the $47,167,182 spending plan represents a $524,073 increase over this year’s funding – which includes $149,073 more in state funding and $375,000 in additional local funding.

Following the meeting, School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers released a statement saying the School Board will be able to address the majority of its budget priorities for next year.

“We are excited that our employees will receive a three percent pay increase, while health insurance premiums remain at their current rate for the fourth consecutive year,” Siers said.

“We are very glad that our bus driver salary scale can be revised in a way that better compensates these employees, who have what is perhaps the most difficult job in public education,” he continued.

“Finally we are thrilled to begin addressing some of the safety concerns at our elementary schools with the creation of two to three school safety or additional resource officer positions,” Siers added.

The statement went on to say the school system thanks the Board of Supervisors for providing an additional $375,000 in funding for next year.

The statement also noted appreciation for County Administrator Jonathan Sweet for “making a public apology last week regarding the confusing and somewhat misleading resolution that was passed regarding the appropriation of this money.”

The statement continued that Pulaski County Public Schools is grateful for all the community and employee support that has been expressed during this budget season.

Budget approval did not come without a cost, however, with seven and possibly as many as 10 positions being eliminated with savings used to help balance the spending plan.

Seven of those positions are vacant now or will be by the end of June, according to Assistant Superintendent Chris Stafford. Not filling those positions will save the school system $422,163.

A reduction in force of three additional positions will save $230,906. However, Stafford said these three staff members are likely to transfer to other vacancies in the school system and this would result in reductions in pay rather than loss of positions.

Those three positions include two elementary assistant principals and a student services supervisor at Pulaski County High School.

It was noted that further attrition in the school system between now and the end of June is possible and could eliminate the need for cutting these three positions.

The elimination of five extra training days for special education teachers will save $58,826.

A staff restructuring in the Technology Department earlier this year will result in a savings of $66,123.

Purchasing only two buses rather than three will save $115,000, although Stafford said officials believe a third bus can be purchased prior to the end of this fiscal year so the school system can maintain its normal cycle of adding three new buses in a 12-month period.

Another $2,466 in budget decreases come in multiple non-personnel areas for total budget reductions of $895,484.

Only two of the School Board’s five top priorities did not receive full funding. The board had originally sought $250,000 for school security officers at the county’s five elementary schools. It also wanted $80,756 to fund the position of Career and Tech Education Career Counselor.

The final budget allows $180,000 for the addition of either two full-time resource officers or three part-time security officers at the elementary level, and there was no mention of funding the Career Counselor position.

The school budget includes $15,507,134 in local funding for operations, $26,414,249 in state funds, $4,428,762 in federal funding and $817,037 in “other” funds.

At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, School Board Chairman Tim Hurst spoke of the sacrifices made by the school system.

“When we all came on the School Board, we came on to be advocates for education in Pulaski County, and to do everything we could to create a quality educational environment for our children as well as the people who work in our schools,” Hurst said.

“Over the last couple of week’s I’ve seen articles and letters to the editor saying that Pulaski County Public Schools do not sacrifice. Over the last five budget cycles we have requested funding for Pulaski County Schools of about $5.8 million. Over that same period we have received $2.1 million of that amount. I’m not fussing about the $375,000, but I am saying Pulaski County Public Schools sacrifices plenty,” he continued.

“That’s $3.7 million of sacrifice over that same period. That’s salaries, teachers in classrooms. That all takes away from a quality education for a child living in Pulaski County. So Pulaski County Public Schools sacrifices plenty!”