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Fayette BoE begins in the hole for next budget

Students are still savoring the last days of summer vacation, but the Fayette County Board of Education is already hitting the books for the following year — the financial books.

At the Aug. 1 work session, board members will begin grappling with expected tight revenues and deciding what cuts have to be made to balance the budget for the 2012-2013 school year.

Superintendent Jeff Bearden will be presenting ideas to increase school system revenues and decrease expenditures in the face of falling revenues and rising expenses. The Aug. 1 work session will mark a return to the Monday meetings traditionally held by the school board for decades prior to the change to Tuesday nights two years ago.

The current 2011-2012 General Fund budget carries revenues of $170.2 million and expenditures of $186.66 million, a shortfall of $16.4 million. The school board’s budget adoption in June included the use of $16.4 million of the approximately $25 million in the fund balance to make up the difference and balance the budget for the 2011-2012 school year that begins Aug. 8. That will leave approximately $9 million in the fund balance a year from now. And that is the potential problem.

All things remaining equal to the 2010-2011 school year, either revenues will have to increase substantially or expenses will have to decrease substantially to counteract what would amount to a depleted fund balance with millions more needed to balance the 2012-2013 budget, and with no place left to find the funds other than through cuts that the central office and the school board have yet to contemplate.

And that is where Bearden’s beginning presentation comes in on Aug. 1. Some on the board during the budget process noted the impending fiscal shortfall and subsequently asked Bearden to address possible solutions beginning this summer so that any needed alterations could be accomplished well in advance of the next school year that begins in August 2012.

The school board beginning in August will go back to having work sessions and regular sessions on Monday nights. Work sessions, if needed, will be held on the first Monday of the month while regular meetings are scheduled for the third Monday.

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