Fayette County School Board passes budget by 4-1 vote

By: Jerrika Insco Email
By: Jerrika Insco Email

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Fayette County Public Schools finally have a budget for the next school year. While the board approved a plan to cut $17 million from the budget, some people made it clear they weren't happy with what it took to get there.

A special-called school board meeting on Wednesday night was originally scheduled to discuss and pass the 2014-15 budget. But it became much more than that after allegations were made by the director of budget and staffing. In the end, a tentative budget did still pass 4-1 by school board members.

Already having trouble passing a budget with cuts to make up for a $20 million shortfall, another curveball was thrown at school board officials. Accusations of fraud, mismanagement, and waste and abuse of authority forced Rodney Jackson, the director of finance, to take a closer look, making a timeline of journal entries in the budget, which Jackson shared at the meeting.

"I don't understand why it came to this point, but it was clearly articulated and described," said Rodney Jackson, the director of finance with Fayette County Public Schools. "I want to reiterate there is not $20 million missing, and there was never $20 million missing,

But despite Jackson's outlining and explanations of there being no irregularities in the budget, some still did not agree that a budget should be passed with these allegations hanging in the balance.

"In light of what's happened this week, our members feel like they can't support the budget passage right now because we really want to have that audit done by Mr. Adam Edelen first before we feel like the budget should pass," said Jessica Hiler, who is the president of FCEA.

"Board members shall act with integrity and due diligence in matters involving district resources," said Amanda Ferguson, a school board member who voted against the passing of the budget. "I cannot in good conscience approve a budget that I feel violates this requirement."

Once the accusations were discussed, the meeting moved on to reductions in the budget, like what to cut and not to cut, in order to pass a tentative one. With those recommendations, the cuts will reduce from $20 million to approximately $17.5 million. Some seemed happy with it, and others said they weren't during public comment at the meeting.

"I think what you've done up to this point is to make the best of a difficult situation," said Bill Lear, an attorney in Lexington. "I congratulate you that because I know how difficult it is."

"The bottom line is if there's any truth to any of this at all, our teachers and our kids are being expected to bear the brunt. And that's not acceptable," said Sharon Mofield-Boswell, a parent within the school system.

All in all, the superintendent expressed that he was happy that they are now moving forward.

"I really feel that the board listened well," said Dr. Tom Shelton, the superintendent. "And we've been very open and tried to make sure that we heard from everyone."

The superintendent says a state audit will be done as soon as possible, which he says he has made a priority and many others at the meeting agreed with him.

Again, the budget passed Wednesday night is only tentative. The final deadline is September 30.

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