School district budget features pay increases

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School lunches will stay the same price next year

By Geoff Hamill

The Washington County School District has approved the first reading of its 2011-12 budget, and there is some good news during what are otherwise tough economic times.
   The overall budget is $17 million, with $13 million being in the general fund.
   Some school districts have had to make cuts, but the Washington County district has been able to create savings to provide a 1-percent pay increase for employees, according to Superintendent of Washington County Schools Robin Cochran.
In addition to the extra money being spent on pay, funding the retirement of staff members will also cost the school district more money in 2011-12. According to numbers from Judy Spalding, treasurer for Washington County Schools, the district will contribute an additional $17,300 to the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System. Last year the district paid $16,900 into this fund, but will pay a total of $34,200 this coming year due to new legislative requirements.
   For classified employees, the district will pay an additional $61,100 into the retirement fund. The Classified Employee Retirement System previously received $421,000 from Washington County Schools, but in 2011-12, that number will climb to $482,1000, according to Spalding.
Other increased expenses for the district will include fuel, which Spalding said she expects to hit $110,500 for the current school year by the end of June. For 2011-12, she has budgeted a total of $150,000.
James “Pogo” Mann, transportation director for the school district, estimated that his drivers will use between 9,000 and 10,000 gallons of fuel over any given six-week period through the school year.
Some expenses are going up for the district, but lunch prices for students will not. Regina Hood, food services director for Washington County Schools, said prices will remain the same for 2011-12. That was a suggestion made by the Kentucky Department of Education, according to Hood, and the local district will honor that suggestion. Lunches at elementary and middle schools will continue to be $1.85, while high school lunch will stay at $2.15. All breakfasts will remain $1.30.
In addition to holding prices at the current rate, Hood said the school district will be receiving money from its supplier, Gordon Food Services, as a rebate for paying food bills on a weekly basis, rather than monthly.
“We started after Christmas paying our GFS bill one week at a time, rather than paying monthly,” Hood said. “If you pay within seven days, you get a 1-percent rebate on your invoice. It may not sound like much, but it’s a lot over a year’s time.”
Hood said it is too early to tell how much this will mean to the school district, but gave a rough estimate that it could mean around $3,000 per year for the school district.
Other changes to the school lunch program per the Kentucky Department of Education will include taking flavored milks from 1-percent to fat-free milk. Hood said schools currently offer chocolate milk that has 1-percent milk fat, but when school starts back in August, all flavored milk, which is primarily chocolate milk, will have to be fat free. She said schools will also have to provide drinking water free of charge. She said in cafeterias where water fountains exist, that will be sufficient, but in other schools, she is looking at adding portable water coolers to give students that option.
Cochran said other highlights of the budget will focus on communication. A new telephone system for the school district and new radios for the transportation department highlight those items. She said $14,500 will be spent on a new telephone system for the board office. The expense is necessary because the current system is more than 20 years old, and is now beyond repair.
As for the transportation radios, Cochran said $22,000 is in the budget for that expense, but she added that the purchase does not have to be made this year. Upgrades are required to the system before Jan. 1, 2013 due to a change in regulations, but Cochran said the expense is being budgeted immediately in case some of the main components of the current system go out and make the immediate change necessary during the coming year.
The budget is scheduled to receive its second reading at the board’s regular meeting on Monday, June 20.