By C.V. Moore
Though the number has fallen significantly from last year, Fayette County Schools still employs 65 more staff than state aid formula allows. The overages fell by 24 percent for the 2012-13 school year, with the closure of Mount Hope High School factoring into the change.
Other factors include teacher retirements, annual staff cuts, and a bump in pre-K enrollment.
Last year, Fayette County was over formula by 36 professionals, down to 12 this year. Though this suggests that 24 positions were cut, says Fayette County Schools Treasurer Paula Fridley, the number allowed by state formula increased by 10, so only about 14 were truly cut.
Of Mount Hope High’s 38 total employees, two administrators, seven teachers and 2.5 service personnel positions were eliminated due to closure, according to Fayette County Schools Assistant Superintendent Serena Starcher.
The closure, along with the routine trimming of staff that has occurred for the past five years in Fayette County, has reduced numbers on the professional side this year. The number of service personnel continues to grow to 53 positions over the limit.
The county will spend only 0.8 percent less on salaries and benefits in fiscal year 2013 than it has in 2012. This does not reflect a $7.5 million retirement allocation for OPEB unfunded liability, made available this year for the first time.
This relatively skimpy savings could be due in part to the automatic pay bump received each year by many school employees who work 133 days.
Salaries and benefits comprise 81 percent of the total budget in Fayette County.
Fridley says most counties in the state spend the majority of their money on personnel, but that the percentage is probably higher in Fayette County because it maintains personnel over the state aid formula.
The state funds 72.45 teachers for every 1,000 kids in Fayette County. If enrollment goes up — as it did this year — so does the number of allowable teachers.
A bump in pre-K enrollment of about 100 kids this year — due to the correction of a counting error — increased the allowable personnel. Taking pre-K out of the picture, the school system actually lost 55 students, according to Fridley.
The state’s counties as a whole employ 544 professional personnel in excess of state funding limits, with Kanawha (127 over) and Boone (57 over) counties out in front.
Neighboring Raleigh County is actually 24 professionals under state aid limits.
But the personnel-to-student ratio for Fayette County — 1 to 8 — is actually on par with Raleigh County, which employs one staff member for every nine students.
The closures of Nuttall Middle and Danese Elementary, made official this year, are not included in these figures because funding formulas run a year behind.
Starcher says the system isn’t in a position to know yet whether any staff will be added at Meadow Bridge Elementary, Divide Elementary or any of the other schools affected by the most recent closures. That will be determined in the fall once enrollment is clearer.
When school closure documents are generated, they project any staffing changes. Starcher says the projections are usually close to targets, but sometimes student needs unexpectedly arise that necessitate adding positions, such as an LPN for a sick child.
Fayette County Schools will spend $40,000 total on five board member salaries in fiscal year 2013, just as in 2012.
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