As the Kentucky General Assembly looks to get control of a projected state budget shortfall of nearly $400 million over the next two years, local officials are preparing for the impact that shortfall will mean in Henry County.
Henry County Judge-Executive John Logan Brent said the overall impact for Henry County likely would be small. But community projects might be the first to go. "As they get into number-crunching, probably any of those special community-type projects that help your community (to) grow, get cut," he said.
He pointed toward two $250,000 projects for a Henry County firehouse and Trimble park improvements.
"Those are the type of things that could get cut," he said. "Obviously, that hurts."
Brent said the budget tightening could be particularly painful for Henry County "his time around, because we need that sewer project so badly to go from New Castle to the ... recreational park."
Henry County Public Schools superintendent Tim Abrams said proposed cuts in education, to the tune of nearly $46 million for the 2009 fiscal year, won't affect students in the classroom, though some of the district's programs will feel a definite reduction.
Schools throughout the state will see a reduction in the funding received for professional development, textbooks, Extended School Services and Safe Schools Programs.
Before Kentucky Department of Education commissioner Jon Draud submitted his budget-reduction plan Friday to Gov. Steve Beshear, school districts last week were expecting a complete elimination of funding for textbooks and professional development.
Draud's proposed budget shows school districts still would receive some funding in those areas, though ESS and Safe Schools funds will be reduced in the 2009 fiscal year.
Draud's recommendations focused on reductions in what he called the "Flexible Focus Fund," which covers such allocations for ESS, professional development, textbooks and Safe Schools.
According to KDE, the Henry County district budgeted $113,276 for ESS in the 2008 fiscal year; that will be reduced to $46,292 in 2009. Eminence, which budgeted $26,905 for ESS in '08, will be reduced to $15,000 in '09.
Professional development for Henry County was budgeted at $44,668 for the 2008 fiscal year, and will drop to $20,780 in 2009. Eminence budgeted $13,013 in 2008, and will drop to $6,054 in 2009.
Textbook purchases in Henry County were budgeted at almost $69,995 for 2008, and will drop to $28,731 in 2009. Eminence budgeted $20,315 for textbooks in 2008, and that will drop to $8,339 in 2009.
The Safe Schools allocation for Henry County will drop from almost $39,139 to $21,183. Eminence will drop from $25,573 to $20,344 in that category.
Abrams said the loss of professional development funding, whether as a whole or in part, would be damaging.
"Professional development (funds) would be huge, because we have a lot of ongoing programs that we want to make sure teachers are up to the latest instructional techniques and methods to use in the classrooms," he said. "That would affect instruction. But, at the same time, I'm confident that we have enough capacity within the district to provide our staff with top quality professional development."
The budget shortfall also would put into question the state of teacher raises and the possibility of unfunded mandates through the general assembly.
Abrams predicts the shortfall will have a big impact on raises.
"I'm not optimistic about raises at all," he said. "While I think our teachers definitely deserve that, I think this may be a year where we're waiting to see what the Legislature does. I don't foresee another unfunded mandate."
While saying he feels optimistic that state lawmakers would "find the money," Abrams said HCPS is in solid financial shape, even with state-level funding cuts. "I feel very confident that we can ride out a short-term crisis; but the longer this goes on, it could have devastating effects to our district."
Eminence Independent Schools Superintendent Donald Aldridge said that as long as educators stay focused on education, students should be fine.
He also noted that Draud's proposals are just that, proposals, and nothing is set in stone. The situation, he said, reminds him of when former Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher took office.
"I can remember four years ago when this same conversation was happening with Governor Fletcher," he said.
"There will be many changes into this budget before it's finalized."
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