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Ludlow Schools Preparing Budget Amid Call for Cuts from Frankfort

The Ludlow Board of Education is preparing for Gov. Matt Bevin's proposed austerity budget presented in Frankfort last week.

Ludlow Independent Schools Superintendent Michael Borchers said he and staff members have spent hours coming up with a draft budget for the next fiscal year, one that would be able to work with the proposed cuts.

"(The state is) apparently fully funding the pensions," Borchers said,  "but that has adverse effects in that a lot of other things will be cut if this goes through."

One area of concern for Borchers is a teacher-training program that offered Ludlow educators four days of professional growth funded by $12,000 the state. Next year, the district would have to pay for it.

Borchers said that instructional materials and textbooks also are also eliminated from the state budget for the next year.

In addition to many other support programs, the Kentucky teacher internship program would be eliminated.

Borchers said school districts will have to reduce their administrative costs by 12 percent for the next two years, if the proposed cuts go through.

On the plus side for the district, the SEEK funding remains the same, at $3,981 as a base guarantee. However, even the SEEK total general fund will be cut over $125 million in each of the next two years. Any programs that have been eliminated or shifted to the district are essentially SEEK re-education items.  

The cuts aimed at transportation for schools do not affect Ludlow as much since the district does not transport students to and from school, so that cost will only be around $7,000 for Ludlow Schools.  

Superintendent Borchers said the district has some built-in savings, and the district had set up some programs expecting the worst from the state, but will still have to scramble as the impact of the state cuts become clearer.   

Borchers told the board that school districts will be expected to pick up more of the cost of health insurance, too.

Coming up with a draft budget was more difficult than usual this year because,  Borchers said, there were so many unknowns.

The school board will likely be encouraged to take the full 4 percent property tax increase later this year. A tentative budget will be presented in May.

"We have some ideas," said Borchers. "In reality we aren't required to have Gateway or full-time Kindergarten, but we feel it is necessary to give our students the best opportunities we can. Everything might not pass in the budget. But we are going to get there."

Other notes:

Mary A. Goetz Principal Jason Steffen told the board about being one of three elementary schools chosen to have a corner in their library turned into a (Xavier University men's basketball) Coach Chris Mack's Corner. Steffen said they found out last November that they had won, and they will have a corner of their library transformed in late February, with kid sized bean bag chairs and huge Fathead murals designed for the school.  

The Mack Family Foundation makes this happen and donates over 600 books geared to children up to sixth grade. Mack and his wife, Christi, and their children have made a point of encouraging literacy in the area schools by creating a learning space within a library. Steffen said the school doesn't have a firm date and time but it will definitely be in late February.

The district received a biannual offer of assistance from the School Facilities and Construction Commission for $20,959. The board voted to accept the offer, and voted to put a matching amount into an escrow account for future building projects.

Superintendent Borchers said that attendance was good, even though a wave of sickness hit the schools in December, and caused sick days.

With the new heating system that was put in last year, the heating bills continue to be about $1,200 lower than they were before the new system was installed.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor