Three superintendents discuss money struggles

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State, federal funding sometimes don't live up to expectations

By Kelly Cantrall

Managing a school district budget is like a “juggling act” for local superintendents as they deal with state and federal shortfalls.

Superintendents from Elizabethtown Independent Schools, Hardin County Schools and West Point Independent Schools met Tuesday night with the League of Women Voters at the Brown-Pusey House to discuss the impact of state and federal budgets on local school districts. Each spoke of the “juggling act” that preparing a district budget can be and ways they’ve made it work.

EIS Superintendent Gary French said his district’s budget broke down into about 62 percent state funding, 24 percent local funding and about 10 percent federal funding.

The largest portion of EIS’ federal funding goes to low-income students and students with disabilities, which was true of Hardin County Schools and West Point Independent Schools as well.

HCS Superintendent Nannette Johnston said the largest impact on the budgeting process has been a lack of state funding. School districts last school year didn’t receive the full amount of their Support Education Excellence in Kentucky money, which for HCS was about $1.2 million.

Textbooks also haven’t been funded in the past few years, Johnston said.

Money struggles have been a constant since Johnston started her superintendency in 2007.

“Every year we have had a budget challenge,” she said.

For West Point, the district never has fully recovered from the 1997 flood, said Superintendent Pamela Stephens, as it caused about 40 percent of its student population to move out of the district.

The district also has a high low-income population, sitting at about 80 percent, Stephens said.

She said for her district to pay for initiatives such as new technology and preschool, it turned to fundraising events a few years ago, such as bingo. She said the district since has stopped doing that.

The district also has a very high tax rate, but Stephens said the community is committed to educating its students.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.