The Monticello Independent Board of Education has voted to formally request that the district become state managed and preliminary discussion was held about merging the Monticello School District with Wayne County. These decisions came after a lengthy meeting and much discussion during the regular monthly meeting of the board on Monday, December 17.
The decision to request state management came after board members heard an update from Gail Binder, with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). Binder noted that the district does not have enough revenue to cover the expenses.
Binder provided the board with a working budget status and recapped the district’s expenditures. She noted that the biggest expense is salaries, which accounts for almost 93 percent of this year’s budget. This expense, combined with the two percent contingency, accounts for 95 percent of the budget. That leaves the remaining five percent to cover the operating expenses, such as fleet expenses, insurance costs, expenses associated with maintenance and special education, utilities and technology costs, according to Binder.
Binder added that the balance in the budget is going to continue to decline each month.
She also pointed out that the district had a bond payment of $178,000 due on February 1. The last thing the district wanted to do, noted Binder, was put themselves in a position where they cannot make that payment.
The effect that would have on the February payroll, at the least, is that the district would not be able to cover it. Board members were informed that the district would need to be state managed in order for the March payroll to be covered.
Binder said that team members have already made overtures to the state regarding this matter and that one alternative is state management.
Kay Kennedy, with the KDE, addressed the board and referenced Breathitt County, a school district that is currently state managed. She stated that under state management, officials with the KDE make all decisions and operational procedures formerly handled by the superintendent and board of education.
Kennedy emphasized to board members that the district did not have the revenue to meet the expenditures and, by law, they cannot do that. She added that state management would allow the state to infuse cash into the situation that would allow them to meet the obligations for the school district for the current year.
In addition, Kennedy addressed the staffing issue. She stated that the district has lost over 80 students but still has the same number of teachers as when they had those additional students.
When asked how many teachers would need to be let go in order to address the over-staffing issue, she stated that around 15 teachers would need to be let go. However, she added, when that number of teachers is cut, it starts depleting programs and all that is offered to the students.
According to Jim Hamm, an education recovery specialist assigned to the Monticello School District by KDE, it would come to the point where the district cannot meet the kids’ educational needs and requirements.
When Kennedy was asked how the board could balance the budget so the district could get caught up, her response was that she did not see how it could get caught up.
She added that the state can help in the short term, and reiterated that the bottom line is that the district cannot continue to operate in a deficit.
There was discussion about selling the soccer field, but Binder noted that it would only help temporarily and that it would just be a short term fix.
Kennedy then addressed the issue of Monticello School District merging with Wayne County at a future point. Although discussion of a merger of the two school districts is preliminary at this point, Kennedy said that one of the first things that would need to take place is teams of representatives from both schools would need to meet and discuss how they would take their combined resources and do what is best for the students. Those teams would need to work together and put a plan in place, she added.
Kennedy then stated that the merger of the two school districts would provide them with enough resources to give the students what they need to be college and career ready and to be 21st Century learners.
According to Kennedy, the discussion of a merger is preliminary right now. She said that right now they must get through this school year and fiscal year, which ends on June 30.
At this point, there have been no formal discussion of a merger between Monticello School District and Wayne County School District or the KDE and Wayne County. Kennedy said that sometime early next year discussions will start the collaborative effort between the two districts.
Following the lengthy discussions, three board members voted to request state management. Nancy Duncan, Shelia Stephenson and Jerry Lair voted in favor, while Bill Denny and Chris Dobbs abstained.
The request for state management has to be approved by the Kentucky Department of Education, which will meet again in February. According to Kennedy, she anticipates that the start date for the state management designation to go into effect by March 1.