Public offers feedback on Fayette Co. $20M school shortfall

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - They’ve asked for help as they try to fix a $20 million budget shortfall and on Thursday, Fayette County school leaders received plenty of ideas from the public.

They talked about the budget shortfall with members of community during the first of two budget input sessions.

It was a full house at the Fayette County School Board meeting as district officials asked for community members help on how to cut $20 million dollars out of the budget.

As the meeting of the minds commenced, it quickly became clear that the focus of this public forum was to get feedback from the folks most affected by the cutbacks.

“We are here to listen, we value and respect the input you would bring and the comments and suggestions that you have about building our budget,” said Superintendent Tom Shelton.

Just like teachers take a red pen to student's papers, that red pen was taken to the budget on Thursday.

From table to table, the questions and concerns varied.

“How do we maintain the best teachers, best gifted and talented programs on a reduced budget? Quality is my concern,” one participant voiced.

Some discussed how to save money while others were concerned about certain programs possibly being cut.

All in all, an array of issues was laid out on the table on Thursday only to be sorted through throughout the next few months.

District officials plan to collect any feedback from Thursday’s meeting and use it to help solve their budget crisis.

Another budget input session will be held next Tuesday night 6:00 also at Northeast Christian Church on Star Shoot Parkway in Hamburg.

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.

In a letter to staff members last week, the superintendent of Fayette County Schools warned of possible layoffs in coming months because of a $20-million budget shortfall and asked 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. "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 district needs to come up with $20 million before the budget is presented to the school board in May.

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