Saturday, June 01, 2002

More school budget cuts?

By Earnest Winston,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The “worst-case” scenario used by Kentucky's public school districts to devise their preliminary budgets by this week's deadline may actually worsen. That could mean program cuts at schools.

        “Absolutely,” said Jack Moreland, Covington Independent Schools superintendent. “Worst-case today might be not so worst-case tomorrow.”

        That's because several school districts in Northern Kentucky — including Covington and Campbell County — opted not to include some or all of the mandated 2.7 percent teacher raises in their budgets for 2002-03. This could result in yet more slashing by districts if the state budget is passed without funding for the raises.

        “If an unfunded mandate goes through, we will probably have to look at some more personnel things,” said Chris Gramke, spokesman of Campbell County Schools, which approved a general fund budget of about $21 million.

        “For example, we have reduced our instructional assistants in the district ... If this continues, though, then we'd have to look at harder types of cuts. Whether that affects programs or personnel, it would all just depend on what the superintendent is able to come up with.”

        Covington schools will save more than $436,000 as a result of cutting two days from teachers' contracts and several days from the administrators' contracts in its 2002-03 general fund budget, which is about $26 million.

        Covington's budget is being boosted by $954,708, which is expected to come from a 4 percent increase in revenue from property taxes. But the district may be forced to go to the voters for more money to deal with the bleak financial situation, Mr. Moreland said.

        Chuck Heilman, who has three children in Campbell County Schools, said the budget crisis will impact every student. But those most at risk, he said, are the students who require “extra attention” from teachers' aides, whose jobs are among those being cut first.

        “The most important thing in a kid's education isn't necessarily what the school does,” Mr. Heilman said.

        “But the most important thing is what the parents do. If the parents think that education is important and the parents push the kids to do what needs to be done, then together as a team, the impact of the finances at the school are going to be reduced.”


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