Friday, June 17, 2016

District looks to save money with state funding cuts on the horizon

Money was the big topic of the night at Monday’s Webster County School Board meeting in Dixon.
After refinancing its 2008 series bonds, the board will be able to save around $510,000 over the next twelve years. Although that only works out to be an average of $40,000 per year, in the current cash strapped position Kentucky schools find themselves in, every dollar counts.

On the down side, superintendent Dr. Rachel Yarbrough told the board that the district expects to see a cut in the amount of funding they can use for preschool programs in the county.

“Webster County’s preschool allocation, along with all of those in the state, are expected to see a reduction,” she said.

According to Yarbrough, last year the district received $404,525 to fund its preschools, but as of right now it appears only $310,576 will be available for the next school year.

The overall state budget for preschool programs has remained the same, at roughly $90 million. But instead of the total amount being split among all of the districts in Kentucky, $7.5 million has been held in reserve. That amount will be used to fund competitive grants that will be used to develop full day preschool programs.

“As it stands, Head Start programs are not included as an approved provider (under this grant),” Yarbrough said. “For us that is a huge deal because Headstart is our primary partner for preschool services.”

She told the board that she fears much of the remaining money will go to larger, more urban areas where schools have more choices for preschool programs, while the rural areas of the state, who have fewer partnership opportunities, will suffer.

“We’re watching this $7.5 million closely,” Yarbrough said. “Right now we really don’t know how this will go because it has not been clearly defined by the state.”

She added that the state has promised that guidance on this issue will be forthcoming.

The district is also looking at some cost cutting measures by possibly switching insurance carriers with the help of Mike Hazelwood with E.M. Ford Insurance. A report and comparison is expected to be presented to the board at its next meeting.

In other business, Yarbrough told board members that she had met with Providence Mayor Eddie Gooch to discuss the school’s usage of the Providence City Park.

Unlike other schools in the district who do not have their own, the school in Providence does not have its own park. The school, however, adjoins the city park and the city has always allowed the school’s students full access to its facilities. This is a tradition that goes well back into the days of the Providence Independent School District and has allowed the school to save money by not having to provide playground equipment.

“I want us to have a mechanism to reimburse them for some of their maintenance cost,” Yarbrough said. “It’s only right that the board of education help cover some of this cost. That’s just what you do when you use someone else’s property.”

No decision was announced, but Yarbrough will pursue the issue further.
Food services director Valerie Knight reported that the school had received a $5,000 Lowe’s Tool Box grant. The monies will be used to develop an outdoor cafeteria in the soon to be inclosed outside area between the middle school, high school and annex.

The area will include picnic tables and a stage area. The plan is to use the area as a reward for students who have good attendance, good grades and good behavior.

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