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Shelton: "Distrust & widespread speculation" tables budget proposal

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Leaders in the Fayette County Public Schools are scrutinizing every area of spending in order to trim five percent of its general fund and present the school board with a balanced budget in May.

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 evening at a 6 p.m. meeting. Those procedures have now been pulled from the agenda. No changes will be made until the district has provided ample opportunities for public input.

"I am committed to listening to our district leaders, principals, employees, families, students and community," said Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton. "Despite the best intentions of the people who have worked hard to develop the sound proposals put forth in the new staffing procedures, distrust and widespread speculation have been rampant in the past two weeks."

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.

"We cannot balance the budget without impacting our employees," Shelton said. "We face tight timelines and strict deadlines under state law. But we cannot move so quickly that we risk breaking faith with the people we serve."

"We will put the staffing changes on hold until we have time to bring more people into this conversation. We will be open to suggestions and questions and move forward in a way allows for open and honest discourse,"

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.

The board will hold a public forum to take questions and input. Ferguson hopes that meeting will help things move forward smoothly.

"I think full input from the community and making sure that everybody has an understanding of how these decisions are going to affect everyone," Ferguson said.

Shelton said in the meeting that the schools are not facing a crisis and told us he doesn't anticipate any layoffs. He says they'll try to reduce staff through attrition.

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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