SHEPHERDSVILLE – Nothing will be known until later in August; however, the proverbial writing is on the wall.
While the tax rate imposed by the Bullitt County Public School Board may not increase at all, a recent discussion would lead one to believe that the district will set the property tax rate at an amount which will provide the maximum increase in revenue allowed by the law.
On two different occasions this spring, members of the school board talked about tax rates and the availability of needed revenue for the continued growth of the district.
At its May 22 meeting, the next stage of the budget process is expected to be discussed.
This fall, the actual 2023-24 budget will be finalized.
Superintendent Dr. Jesse Bacon outlined the taxing options to board members at a workshop.
Setting the property tax figures at the compensating rate, Bacon said the district would generate basically the same amount of revenue.
With the district limited to a growth of only 4 percent in revenue (minus new growth), Bacon said the actual tax rate could go up or it could even go down.
If the district opted to roll the dice and set a rate that would bring in more than the 4 percent allowed, it would be subject to a voter recall on the ballot.
But, the superintendent said the Fayette County school district took the chance and increased the rate to generate more than the 4 percent amount. When put on the ballot, the school district won.
Bacon said that if the tax rate remains the same, the estimate is that the district would receive an additional $2 million. If the district took the allowed 4 percent increase in revenue, that amount basically doubles.
While that sounds impressive, Bacon told board members that the next budget comes with certain challenges.
For example, if pay increases discussed occurred, Bacon said that accounts to another $2 million which would be needed.
There would be another $2 million needed for staffing increases proposed.
With mandates set out by the General Assembly, Bacon said look at another $318,000 in revenue required.
Additional needs in the district include adding assistant principal positions at Crossroads and Roby; adding a counselor at both North Bullitt High and Bullitt Lick Middle; and a step addition on the teaching salary scale. That would be an enticement for teachers to remain working in the district even after they accumulate 27 years in the profession.
There was also discussion on increasing the pay structure for substitute teachers, which would be in the neighborhood of $1.3 million.
Recruitment of workers at all levels remains a problem common throughout the state and the country.
Bacon said the district is trying to be creative.
Pay increases are part of the puzzle but the superintendent said the district is trying to help classified employees who want to become teachers. Care Solace is a mental health provider for all students, staff and their families.
Providing a good work environment is another benefit stressed.
Human resources director Althea Hurt said things like $50,000 in free life insurance is another perk but that doesn’t seem to attract many teachers.
The district is offering a class on becoming debt free and Hurt echoed Bacon’s sentiment on trying to be creative to recruit and to retain employees.
There are also other things desired by many for the district.
Sarah Smith, the safe school coordinator, said that the legislature passed a bill requiring school resource officers in each building as the funds are made available.
Currently, through partnerships with local agencies, the high schools are covered by resource officers and four of the six middle schools are covered.
Ultimately, all schools would have an armed officer on campus.
Another goal is to have a nurse in each building. Those options are being discussed with various agencies at this time.
The bottom line, according to Bacon, is that if the board makes no change to the current tax rate in August or September, the budget would fall over $3.6 million short of meeting the needs.
One bright note is that the school district was not hurt by the decision to repeal the bourbon barrel storage tax. Bacon said that fear was adverted when changes were made to the language of the bill.
Dr. Matt Mooney, the board’s newest member, said that the district has a lot of wonderful things happening. But he also knows that the resources available are limited.
He wants the best education possible for his four children, as well as each student in BCPS.
Board chairman Darrell Coleman said that any mandate passed by the general assembly should be matched with the needed revenue to make those things happen.
“Put up or shut up,” Coleman said of the state funding.
Board member Linda Belcher said that employees deserve more money. She wished the state would provide the funds to make that happen.
The next meeting of the Bullitt County Public School Board will be at 5 p.m. on Monday, May 22, at the Frank Hatfield Administrative Center. The public is invited to attend.