State Shortfall means Fewer Funds for Schools

Dec 13, 2011

Local school officials around Kentucky will soon find out how much money they stand to lose in a $57.5 million shortfall to state education funding. Education Commissioner Terry Holliday told superintendents in an email Friday that the Kentucky Department of Education would announce mid-year cuts later this month.

He pointed to enrollment growth and declining property values as reasons for the shortage in the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky fund for the current fiscal year. That’s the main state source of funding for public schools, totaling about $2.9 billion.

If previous figures are any indication, local schools could see their expected income shrink by hundreds of thousands in the coming months.

When state education funding fell short by $49.3 million last year, Franklin County Public Schools lost $363,408 in state revenue, and Frankfort Independent lost $59,419.

FCPS Superintendent Harrie Buecker says she’s bracing for a similar cut this time around.

“That’s why we have our contingency, and we’re glad we have that,” she said, referencing the $4.3 million rainy day fund set aside in the district’s latest budget.

“That’s why we’ve worked so hard to build it, because we know that we don’t want to be surprised and have to face something like that without a contingency plan.”

Holliday asked state Budget Director Mary Lassiter in a letter Friday for an increase in funding to offset the shortfall.

Kentucky ended the 2010-2011 fiscal year with a $122-million budget surplus, but those funds cannot be used to shore up education funding without action by the General Assembly, Lassiter said in a response letter later that day.

She said she would put the request on hold “due to the uncertainty of the availability of funds.” The state faces a deficit of $189.9 million this year, she added.

“While funding the SEEK formula continues to be the governor’s highest priority, this decision cannot be made outside the context of the 2012-14 budget process,” Lassiter said.

The governor will present his budget recommendation to the General Assembly on Jan. 17.