State Funding for Clark County Schools Under Threat

May 23, 2013

Credit Kentucky Department of Education

The exact repercussions of the Clark County Board of Education’s decision to halt the direct facilities are finally known.  In a letter sent to the board from Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, seven steps are laid out for the board to return to the current facilities. Failure to comply and enact these sevens steps will result in a loss of SEEK money for the district. SEEK money is awarded by the state to school districts based on attendance.

Last year, the district received $17,582,098, or about 40 percent of the district’s general fund of $38,237,557. Next year, the school district expects to receive around $17,471,215.

Those seven steps include adopting a resolution to support the current facility plan and approving renovation for Clark Middle School and the former George Rogers Clark High School building during the May 28 special-called meeting of the board.

The board was orignally scheduled to meet Tuesday, but that meeting was rescheduled to accommodate GRC’s commencement.

Board Chairman Michael Kuduk said he is disappointed by how the state has decided to proceed.

“Cutting SEEK funding means we can’t meet payroll and I don’t appreciate the state holding the district’s payroll hostage,” he said.

Kuduk also said he was disappointed the letter doesn’t address student achievement.

Superintendent Elaine Farris has revised the meeting’s agenda to include those items. Future actions required by the board include approving construction documents for Clark Middle School and the old GRC building by Nov. 1, renovation starting on Clark Middle by March 3, work beginning on May 30 and moving students from Clark Middle to the old GRC building and students from Trapp Elementary, Pilot View Elementary and Providence Elementary to the appropriate education centers as outlined in the facility plan.

There is a further snowball effect to the loss of SEEK funds beyond the financial hit.

“After a few months of not getting the SEEK funds, we would fall under the 2-percent contingency and the state could come in,” Board member Judy Hicks said.

Farris said the district would not be able to meet that fiscal obligation by Oct. 1 and one option the state has is to physically assume control of the district until it can get the finances in order.

“The state, in the past, has taken over any district that has fallen below that (2 percent contingency),” Farris said.

The loss of SEEK funds could come at the failure to meet any of those deadlines, the letter states. That funding would be frozen and renew once the actions are taken. The board can request missed SEEK payments after the delayed action is completed.

The letter also details how the board’s decision to delay the middle school merger and halting the facility plan broke a legally binding agreement between the district and the state. The letter appears to allow the board to maintain the delay of the middle school merger, holding the students of Clark Middle out of the old GRC building for at least one year.

“Whether we agree with it or disagree with it, it is the law,” Hicks said. “If a different board had been in place when the plan was developed, maybe the plan would be different. But this is the plan we have. We have no choice but to implement what the law says.”

The letter comes in place of a meeting that was canceled between members of the board and representatives of state agencies, which was scheduled to take place last week.