JCPS Board approves $1.3 billion tentative budget - News, Weather & Sports

JCPS Board approves $1.3 billion tentative budget

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Jefferson County Public Schools' Board of Education members leveled accusations against district administrators and the state auditor before approving a $1.3 billion tentative budget.

The district's budget is the second-largest spending plan in Kentucky behind only state government. It includes state-mandated teacher raises, more money for school bus security, and funding to expand preschool.

The board voted 5-2 after about two hours of debate that included several references to a recent state audit that portrayed JCPS as a top-heavy organization with highly paid administrators and a school board that acted as a rubber stamp.

"I left my rubber stamp at home, and I'm not going to support this budget," board member David Jones said, before he voted in opposition. "It's not because I lack confidence in the particulars, but because I don't have the information to do my job."

Chris Brady was the other "no" vote, also saying Superintendent Donna Hargens' team hadn't provided board members enough information.

Of the five members who voted in favor, Debbie Wesslund and Carol Haddad criticized Edelen's work. The district's chief financial officer, Cordelia Hardin, became visibly frustrated during the debate and accused Edelen of doing a poor job.

"When the auditors came -- and they were here for nine months -- they talked to a lot of my staff, but seriously, they talked to (me) for 15 minutes," Hardin said.

[PREVIOUS STORY: State audit of JCPS uncovers millions of wasted taxpayer dollars, 'inefficient bureaucracy']

The tentative budget, which the board still must approve for a final time in September, doesn't cut the pay of any of the 369 district employees who make more than $100,000 a year.

"What the state audit report asks us to do is a review and a study of those salaries," Hargens said. "So there's nothing in this budget regarding that. We have 60 days to do a more detailed analysis."

Hargens vowed to begin providing the board with a more detailed budget by the September vote. Earlier, board chairwoman Diane Porter acknowledged there was a problem and asked Hargens to give members more information.

Hargens didn't echo her chief financial officer's criticism of Edelen's team.

"They actually have a protocol that they follow, I really respect the process that they used," Hargens said, when asked whether 15 minutes was an appropriate amount of time to spend with the district's top budget officer.

The audit, the largest ever undertaken by a Kentucky auditor, was requested by JCPS Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens and the school board in 2013.

To view the full 2014-2015 JCPS tentative budget, click here.

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