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School board OKs $200,000 property tax increase

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Officials defend decision, say budget ‘not set in stone’

By Meaghan Downs

 By Meaghan Downs
News staff
The Anderson County Board of Education unanimously approved its proposed budget Monday night calling for a 4 percent revenue increase, about $200,000 more in anticipated property tax revenue for the upcoming fiscal year.
School board chairman James Sargent said the budgeted 4 percent revenue increase does not mean the board will ultimately decide to raise tax rates.
“Before it gets out to the public that we’re going to increase property tax, this is just a tentative [budget],” Sargent said to Chief Financial Officer Nick Clark, who replied that the budget “is not set in stone.”
If property tax assessments come in higher than expected in mid-August, Clark said, the district may not need to include a 4 percent revenue increase.
But given federal and state cuts for education funding and the need to maintain local services, board members Lee Hahn and Roger McDowell agreed the school board may soon be faced with only two options: cut school services or raise taxes.
“All the federal and the state governments are doing are pushing the pain down to us,” McDowell said during a budget work session Monday night. “They say they’re not cutting, but in fact they are. It’s up to us to find some way to cut services or raise taxes.”
“That’s about the only two options we got,” Hahn said. “What else do you do?”
Hahn commended Superintendent Mitchell and her staff for maintaining the current budget at the rate of $5.52 per $1,000 assessed value over the last several years.
“It’s tough, and we’re gonna get criticism, but we’ve got to iron this thing out to where we can function in the school district and get the best possible education for the kids with what we’ve got to work with,” Hahn said.
The 2013-14 budget, including $5.267 million in total anticipated property tax revenue, would increase the district’s revenue by 4 percent, an estimated 2 percent tax rate increase.
The property tax rate for the school district has remained flat at $5.52 per $1,000 assessed property value for the past four years.
At current assessed property values, a 10 cents per $1,000 assessed value increase in the tax rate equals roughly $150,000 in tax revenue. For the budgeted $200,000 increase, it would mean an increase to the tax rate of about 12 cents.
If that happens, property taxes on a home assessed at 100,000 would go from $552 a year to $564, a $12 increase.
Chief Financial Officer Nick Clark said total enrollment and Average Daily Attendance (ADA) numbers have not been increasing, resulting in about $294,000 less in Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) revenues or $6 less per student for 2013-2014.
The total amount allocated for state education funding, at $60 million total, has remained the same, Clark said, but population growth across the state has resulted in SEEK decreases per student.
“The total dollars [$60 million] they’re allocating is the same, so technically they [the state] haven’t cut, but the total funding per kid has decreased,” Clark said.
If Anderson County’s numbers are up by the fall, the SEEK funding can and will be adjusted, he said.
McDowell said he estimated that the district would have to enroll about 52 more students to make up a $200,000 decrease in revenue.
The 2013-14 budget also includes $404,765 more in payroll expenses, including a salary step increase for teachers and certified staff.
The budget does not include a 1 percent salary raise for 2013-14, but payroll expenses are slightly higher than last year at 83.11 percent of the total budget.
Payroll expenditures also include a 0.5 percent increase in the district’s Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) payments, about $80,000 more than last year, Clark said.  
Two new school buses at $175,000 were also added to the budget, along with $30,000 for bus maintenance.
Total contingency for the district will drop to 3.34 percent with the 4 percent revenue increase; contingency would be at 2.5 percent without the extra $200,00 in tax revenue. The state recommends a minimum of 2 percent contingency, Clark said.
“They’re going to lose that if they keep cutting all these districts,” school board member Scott Brown said of the contingency minimum.
Clark said he also received estimates regarding the federal government’s sequester cuts, and that cuts in federal funding for Anderson County were lower than previously anticipated.
Instead of $160,000 expected to be cut from Title I, Title II, special education, preschool and the Perkins program, the district will be cut about $74,000 in federal funding.
These numbers are still subject to change, Clark said.
The tentative fiscal year budget is the second step of a three-part budgeting process for the school district, with the final budget to be approved by the school board in September.
The school district typically receives tax rate formulas at the end of July, with the Board of Education setting its annual tax rate in August.
“We’ve got a lot of thinking to do, looks like,” Sargent said at the close of the school board’s work session.

School board to consider options
for school nurses
The board of education is expected to review its contract with the Anderson County Health Department regarding school nurses during the first week of June, according to Superintendent Sheila Mitchell.
During a work session on the board’s tentative 2013-14 budget, school board member Lee Hahn inquired about the status of the school nurse contract with the Anderson County Health Department.
Chief Financial Officer Nick Clark said he added about $30,000 to $40,000 to the school nurse contract expense in anticipation of an increase, but had not received a final cost as of the May 20 work session.  
Mitchell said last year the school board had asked her staff to explore other options for school nurses for the district, and that there were three options for the board to consider when it meets to discuss the issue.
Mitchell said the board should be discussing the school nurse contract either in a special-called meeting or at the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting at the end of June.  

35 laptops for middle school
The school board approved the purchase of 35 new laptop work stations for middle school students for a total cost of $28,875.
The computers, at a state contract price of $825 each, will be paid with $18,000 in Anderson County Middle School carryover funds and $10,075 from the middle school’s general fund.

Superintendent recognizes Career
and Technical Education winners
The following students were recognized for their achievements in Career and Technical Education (CTE) during the May 20 school board meeting:
HOSA
Katie Brandenburg, first place, interviewing skills; Denae Byrd, second place, clinical specialty; Hannah Lewis, third place, medical assisting; Rachel Walker, third place, Medical Reserve Corps team; Leeshae Hahn and Ashley Glover, Top 5 finalist, biotechnology.
SKILLS USA
Lucas Collins, second place, automotive service technology; Joshua “Joe” Dean, third place, electrical construction wiring; Samantha Moore, second place, talent; Logan Morgan, third place welding at SKILLS USA, sixth nationally out of 121 competitors at Tulsa Welding School National Competition in Jacksonville, Fla.
FBLA
Ben Spear, first place, technology concepts; Travis Simpson, first place, computer problem solving; Braxton Chrisman, second place, management information systems (team); Brittany McCarthy, second place, electronic career portfolio; Jamie Chowning and James Estes, second place, digital design and promotion.
Ford AAA Automotive Troubleshooting State Competition
Josh Tidei and Alex Brogan, third place, perfect car (found and fixed all bugs).

Counselor recognized
Rachel Baker, Anderson County middle school counselor, was recognized by Sheila Mitchell at Monday’s board meeting for receiving the Kentucky School Counselor Association Outstanding School Counselor award for 2013.