The Jessamine County Board of Education will face a tough decision on a tax increase this summer as it stares down the face of a possible $2.3 million in additional expenses next school year.
Superintendent Lu Young presented the board with an overview of the budget outlook for the 2013-2014 fiscal year at a work session Monday.
The district faces mandatory added expenses of $1.5 million in pay increases, personnel and utility costs for the new elementary school, other added positions for student growth, and contributions to retirees’ health insurance and county retirement. An additional $870,000 would cover the purchase of five new buses, allocations for elementary specials teachers and payment into a statewide insurance deficit.
Jessamine County Schools reported its highest ever fund balance of $8.8 million in July 2012. After what Young termed a “conservative” estimate of that figure decreasing $300,000 this year, the additional costs next year would take that balance down to $6.2 million — feasible for one year but not past that, Young said.
“It’s not terrible — I don’t want the message to be doom and gloom, because we’ve built up a healthy fund balance and we can draw it down next year,” she said. “I just really, in all fiduciary responsibility, have to tell you that we can’t keep drawing it down, because a lot of these expenses are recurring expenses.”
The school board voted to keep the tax rate the same last August — 62.9 cents per $100 assessed value of real and personal property. Young said she strongly recommended the board consider taking the maximum 4-percent increase this August.
“In terms of revenue stream, we’ve gotten by with no tax increase this year and a small one last year, so I’m going to be asking you to open your minds to the possibility of a 4-percent this year,” she said.
Board member Hallie Bandy asked about the possibility of instituting a tuition option for full-day kindergarten, citing Young’s own doctoral research that showed full-day kindergarten is not academically preferable to half-day kindergarten for all students.
Young said adding tuition for full-day kindergarten could reduce costs by $200,000 annually, though she said she feels the community now expects the “overwhelmingly popular” full-day program and that it doesn’t hurt any students.
“Full-day kindergarten is the best option for some kids, not the best option for others, but not a bad option for any,” Young said.
The board approved a draft budget for 2013-2014 at its January meeting. The tentative and working budgets will be up for approval later in the year, with the tax rate typically set at a special meeting in August.