During its regular meeting on Monday, Sept. 13, the Paintsville Independent Schools Board of Education voted to reduce its tax rate and announced that the school district currently has the best financial outlook it has ever had, according to board member Joe Porter.

“We’re in good financial shape, the best this school’s ever been in since it was

established,” Porter said.

“Not only are we in great financial shape, I think it’s safe to say that our kids have the most stuff on their hands that they’ve ever had, and our teachers as well, so this board has done an extremely good job at managing the budget while providing resources to our teachers,” said Superintendent David Gibson. “Tonight we’re going to get to do something for the second time since I’ve been here that is very unusual, when it comes to our taxes.”

According to Porter, this year, the school’s food service fund made money for the first time in a while, whereas in previous years the fund would operate at a loss and be bolstered by funds transfers from other areas. District Finance Officer Joe Schmitt said that the food service industry, an area of focus for the board for a few years now, started the 2020-2021 school year with approximately $1,300 in its fund, ending with more than $167,000 after requiring an injection of more than $16,000 in the 2019-2020 school year just to end the year with a balance of zero dollars.

Add to this fund gains in several other funds and not including COVID-19 related Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, and the financial outlook for the district is quite sunny, according to Porter, with an increase from the previous year of more than $500,000 to the district’s general fund balance and budgeted amount for the 2021-2022 school year -- jumping from approximately $1.16 million at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year to $1.633 at the beginning of the ‘21-22 year.

According to Gibson and Schmitt, this can be attributed to a more efficient use of existing dollars, and has not come at the expense of technology, staff and program availability, as the district has continued to grow in these areas, with each teacher now having a desktop and a laptop to use, and every student in the district having a device to use.

“We’re doing more, more efficiently, and still growing,” Gibson said. “There’s a layering of what we’re doing, we’re providing more services, better pay, we’re growing our budget.”

Schmitt and Gibson said that, even though, in a typical situation, the food service fund’s year-end balance does not contribute to the general fund, it did indirectly in this situation as the food service department, under the leadership of Paul Baker (whom Gibson said he was immensely thankful for), who moved, over the last year, to see the district included in the Community Eligibility Program’s free and reduced lunch program for the first time in the district’s history.

In the four years since Gibson was hired as the interim superintendent at the district and then renewed into the position in a full-time capacity, Schmitt said the district’s general fund has more than doubled, leading to the ability of the district to lower taxes for the second time in Gibson’s tenure, growing from approximately $700,000 at the end of the 2016-2017 school year to its current approximately $1.633 million.

The board voted to reduce those tax rates from the previous 94.5 cents per $100 property valuation rate that was currently in place to a new rate of 93.6 cents on the $100, a nearly whole-cent decrease, and one that, Gibson said, means taxes for city residents in the district are now lower than they were in 2017.

“Over the past four years our board has made a concerted effort to reduce overhead.  By doing so we have been able to grow financially so we can provide more resources for students and staff, all while reducing taxes twice in a four year period,” Gibson said.  “We will heavily invest our finances to provide more for our students. It is a great time to be a Tiger.”

The Paintsville Independent Schools Board of Education meets at 5 p.m. on the second Monday of each month in the Paintsville Elementary School library. Meetings are currently available to the public virtually as they are livestreamed on YouTube and can be found by searching for “Paintsville BOE.”