Budget concerns and a new graduation requirement were discussed during the Mason County School Board meeting Monday.
Superintendent Rick Ross presented the currently balanced working budget to the school board for approval but said there are many issues facing every school district in Kentucky that also concern the Mason County district.
According to the Ross, some of the changes in the budget, compared to previous years, includes having a beginning balance of $3.5 million.
"We thought we were in a good place," Ross said. "We budgeted for higher expenses this year and we gave raises to employees; we set the tax rate at the compensating rate. Now, we're getting a lot of news."
Ross said the County Employees Retirement System rate will increase by $304,000 for the 2018-2019 school year.
"They're expecting the schools to pay higher portions and individuals to pay higher portions," he said.
Ross also said he was notified on Friday that 17.4 percent of the Kentucky Department of Education's current fiscal year budget had been reduced.
"That's $70 million," Ross said. "They can't absorb that. It's going to trickle down into the districts. We're three months into the year. Everyone is locked into contract; we've set the tax rates. If we'd known about this before we set our rates and our budget, there may have been something we could do."
According to Ross, cuts will most likely be made for the 2018-19 fiscal year.
"It's almost like looking back on my first year here," he said. "The working budget will not stand as is."
Ross did say the district currently has a $3.2 million contingency fund, but something will have to change in the district.
The board approved the current working budget.
During the meeting, the school board was also notified of a graduation requirement that will start with the 2019 graduating class.
According to Mason County High School Assistant Principal Seth Faulkner, Senate Bill 159 was passed in the Kentucky legislature recently. The bill requires all Kentucky public high school students to receive at least a 60 percent on an American Civics test.
According to Faulkner, the test is 100 questions and is taken from the Citizenship and Immigration test. It will consist of three parts, 30 American history questions, 13 geography questions and 57 government and economic questions.
"The current seniors will not have to meet this requirement, but our current junior class will have to meet it," Faulkner said. "Once we get through our current freshmen, sophomores and juniors, we'll start testing each of the students their freshmen year. They must have at least a 60 percent to pass and they can take it as many times as they need."
Other items discussed during the meeting included:
-- ACT scores. According to Faulkner, Mason County had the highest scores in the surrounding districts. The amount of students meeting all four ACT benchmarks was also 21 percent, which is 1 percent higher than the Kentucky average of 20 percent.
-- Presentation of employees of the month, which included Butch Chain, volunteer of the month; Larry Youngman, classified employee of the month; and Sean Jackson, certified employee of the month.
-- Approving Ross, Sinclair and Associates to conduct a one-hour finance training for BOE members.
-- Approving the monthly financial report.