Fayette Co. superintendent asks for pay cut amid budget shortfall

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - In a letter to staff members, the superintendent of Fayette County Schools warns of possible layoffs in coming months because of a $20-million budget shortfall and asks for his own $254,000 annual salary to be reduced.

"I also want you to know that we will develop a budget proposal for our Board to consider that will minimize any possible negative impact on student services and achievement," Tom Shelton wrote in the letter sent Wednesday morning. "We know that we must attempt to absorb as much as possible of the reductions in areas that do not directly affect our schools. To that end we will attempt to share the responsibility for any cuts so that as few employees as possible would lose employment. We believe the majority of any changes in staffing would be handled through attrition in staff turnover."

The superintendent previously said the district needs to come up with $20 million before the budget is presented to the school board in May.

"We will also work to reduce hours and/or days worked for any affected employees before we would eliminate positions. To that end, I will personally recommend to our Board that my contract salary be lowered by 5% effective July 1," wrote Shelton. "We must make spending adjustments to remain financially sound but we can accomplish this by all working together to keep our IAK focus. We will still have 95% of the resources we have had in the past but will be more efficient and effective in the use of these resources as we work toward equity for all students."

A group of principals and district leaders has been meeting since last fall to develop a new school staffing formula. A proposal on the new procedure was scheduled to go before the Fayette County Board of Education Monday before outcry sparked it to be pulled from the agenda.

In order to balance the budget for next school year, the district is looking to create a spending plan based on 95-percent of the resources used this year. In total, 88-percent of Fayette County Public Schools current spending goes to salaries and benefits for the district's 5,815 employees.

Board member Amanda Ferguson has taken issue with the way the budget cuts have been handled. In fact, she walked out of another recent board meeting after she says her frustrations boiled over.

"It was a source of frustration. It supposed to be an informational meeting and I felt like I wasn't getting information that I wanted," Ferguson said. "If it served to bring all this to the forefront and to the public eye, then I guess it was OK,"

Even though the issue was tabled, several people still turned out to Monday evening's board meeting to give their thoughts.

"It would be my hope that classroom teachers would be the absolute last group impacted by budget cuts," one of the attendees told the board.

Plans to provide information to the community include the creation of a web page at www.fcps.net/budget, which will be updated regularly throughout the budget development process. On March 6 at 6 p.m., Shelton will host a public forum at the district's main offices, located at 701 East Main Street, to answer questions and gather input.

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