By R. Scott Belzer
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Construction costs, declining enrollment and a state mandated raise for teachers over the next two years has forced the East Bernstadt school board to make some tough decisions.
The East Bernstadt Independent school board announced drastic changes in personnel employment contracts, salaries and positions for the 2014-2015 school year on Thursday evening.
“The budget is very, very tight,” said Vicki Jones, superintendent at East Bernstadt Independent. “We’ve been looking at ways that we can save money for the past week and a half.”
Thursday, the East Bernstadt school board approved abolishing one certified teacher position, one special education teacher position, one extended school services (ESS) position, and one dance team coach position.
Jones and Financial Director Amy Brown have been crunching numbers since learning about the state mandated 1 percent raise for Kentucky teachers. The raise will cost the school an estimated $25,000 for the next school year, and an estimated $55,000 the following school year.
“They recommend that you only spend 75 percent (of the budget) in wages for teachers," Jones said. "Last year we were at 85 percent and it eats the budget quickly. This year we’re at 80 percent.
"Next year, when we have to confront the two percent (increase), we’ll have to be very careful. One teacher can make a huge difference.”
The board also ruled in favor of reducing preschool coordinator extended days by 16 days, establish a part-time preschool teacher limited to 183 half days, and lowering the salaries of remaining ESS teachers.
Jones went on to explain that in the case of the special education teacher, a position may immediately be recreated should a need arise.
By reducing the number of extended days for preschool coordinator, the contract will match that of a special education director.
“The preschool is over budget, and the general fund is used to contribute to the preschool budget. We really need them to share the cost of what we contribute,” Jones said. “The budget really needed attention and we had to make sure they get the materials they need, including tables and other things we need to buy for them.”
Concerns regarding the lack of students predicted to enroll next year also have Jones and Brown cutting costs.
“The problem is that our enrollment has gone down...,” Jones said. “Right now, you can’t really get a clear prediction (on next year).”
Construction costs, along with personnel costs to adjust to new construction, has also stretched East Bernstadt’s budget. Small matters such as air conditioning, energy usage, and custodial work have taken a new prominence.
“We’re going to have to write lots of grants and hope we get them,” said Jones. “But we’re very hopeful our enrollment will begin to grow because our school has turned around.”