After approving a 2015 draft budget, members of the Harlan Independent Board of Education discussed the impact mandated raises will have on the district.
“This budget is very similar to last year’s,” said Superintendent C.D. Morton. “Obviously, there are some reductions in there based on loss of student enrollment as well as other anticipated expenses. For example insurance, we’re not sure how that’s going to play out for us. Really, it’s too early to make any final decision. This is a rough draft, a more active tentative budget will come later, probably after the legislative session is over and we have a a better picture of what is going to be funded and what is not going to be funded.”
Morton mentioned one item saying this has gotten the governor’s attention regarding the money he has put in his budget for education.
“We know there will be compromises that won’t look exactly the same,” said Morton. “Raises have a serious implication for our district. A 2 percent raise for our district certified and non-certified could be well over $100,000. My preliminary estimate is that the funding that would come as a result of that would not come close to $100,000. That would mean we would have a deficit that we would have to fill — mandated obligation from KDE (Kentucky Department of Education).
“Again, it’s too early to tell, we will know later. I think what we would like to see happen is school leaders — we think people need raises, teachers and employees need raises, but we ultimately need flexibility to be able to use that funding as we deem most appropriate without creating further hardships,because currently the way things are written and proposed for our district this could result in a significant unfunded mandate.”
Board member Cindy Allison said she is sure Harlan Independent is not the only district facing this hardship.
“There is obviously a politician angle that has taken place here and there is a real world physical angle,” said Morton. “There are people at KDE who are very aware of the physical angle and how this impacts a lot of school districts. I’ve talked to our neighboring school districts and some of them have expressed the same concerns. At the end of the day, school districts could be looking at significant general fund contributions that don’t go away if they are mandated. You have it the next year and the next year. At this point, I think everybody is trying to be in line with we want to support the need for more money for K-12. It’s hard not to say that. We also want to qualify that we need flexibility and how to utilize those funds when they come to us — not make that more difficult. I think everybody understands.”
Morton said he doesn’t at this time “have any indication on which way it will go” and “what compromises might be made.”
Board chairman Joe Meadors said He would “hate to see staff not get raises.”
“Everyone would agree all of our staff have performed admirably for many years without adequate compensation,” said Meadors. “When we’ve had money we’ve tried to address that on our own. What I’m afraid would happen — there’s a possibility if there’s a mandate from the state to give a 2 percent raise, then there’s not enough money in our seed and it’s mandated by law, then the only other recourse we’d have is perhaps lay off some certified staff to give the whole certified staff remaining a raise. I don’t think anybody at our school or any other school would want that, but that may very well be what happens. That would be a shame if we had to operate under those conditions.”
The board approved the 2015 draft budget upon the superintendent’s recommendation.
Nola Sizemore may be reached at 606-573-4510, ext. 115, or on Twitter @Nola_hde