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Next Danville Schools budget could include $1M in cuts

The Danville School Board is considering several budget cuts totaling nearly $1 million, in order to devise a balanced budget for the 2021 fiscal year and begin rebuilding its general fund.

At the same time, it’s expecting a reduction in revenues for the next several years. Monday night, board Chair Steve Becker partially blamed state legislators for financial problems that school districts are facing.

Becker said the Danville School District has “flat line revenues. Unfortunately that’s what we’re going to have to live with. There’s not going to be a lot coming from Frankfort. We just need to face it.”

“The districts have to know, the taxing of property is not sustainable. … And there’s not a willingness on our representatives to even consider other alternatives to bring in more revenues. So, we’re in a dying systm,” he said. “And it’s going to be very costly in about 10 years. I don’t know how anybody’s going to keep up with it.”

“We have to be advocates,” Becker said. “We’ve got to get on our state representatives and make sure they know that we’re not happy with how things are. I’m just talking about financially and how we’re dealing with the schools. It’s going to be really important to do that.”

Other reasons for flat property tax revenues in the Danville school district are due to a large number of bankruptcies, and several large properties deemed as not taxable, including those belonging to Ephraim McDowell Health, Centre College, Wilderness Trace Distillery’s tangible property, and the future fire station, explained Superintendent Dr. Tammy McDonald.

Becker said another trend is the reduction the amount the state government pays school districts from taxes collected on utilities, cable and cell phones.

“With the demise of cable and satellite, we’re looking at less tax dollars coming in. So I think we’re obligated to make those tax dollars up,” he said. “That’s what we have to figure out how to do. My true concern is that we’re not in an equal partnership anymore with the state. … You talk to our representatives …. they have no interest whether or not the local property taxpayers are making up the revenues. It’s discouraging because they’re not willing to look at a new taxing system to where we can bring in more revenues, instead of giving it away. It’s going to be detrimental on our schools in 10 years if the practice continues.”

Board member Lori Finke agreed. “They (the state) say we’re giving you more this, but then they cut our professional development, they cut our textbooks, they cut everything else, and the school districts have to make up for those.”

She said the board is trying to keep the support the same for students and staff, but rising expenses are being added to school boards’ responsibilities without government support.

McDonald said her office has estimated making $745,000 in payroll reductions through teacher attrition and hiring new teachers at a lower pay scale than more experienced teachers. She also proposed that the district’s mowing contract be taken over “in-house,” for a cost savings of $21,000.

The draft budget being considered now, however, substantially increases the daily pay for substitute teachers.

“We are having a hard time finding daily subs,” McDonald said.

Increasing the pay is intended to help recruit and maintain subs.

The proposed draft budget for the 2021 fiscal year estimates general fund revenues to be $21,892,000 and costs to be $21,814,463, for a total of $77,537 under budget to be saved for the general fund.

Board member Paul Smiley said people talking to him are concerned about the board’s overspending in the past. He added, “I feel very confident that … we’re going to have a balanced budget and we’re going to move forward. … Significant action is being taken and we’re going to be fine.”