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Legislator's Log by Rep. Brent Yonts

MUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (5/20/2014) – I want to start off this week’s column by thanking our teachers for the selfless work they do on behalf of our students.

I know it has been tough in recent years with the limited funds we have for our schools, and I want our teachers to know that their perseverance and unfailing dedication to their students has not gone unnoticed.

Our teachers have never wavered in their mission to educate and, as legislators, it is our duty to never waiver in support of our teachers.

It is often said that those of us in the General Assembly serve the people, but many of us in the General Assembly would not have such a privilege if it were not for the service provided by our Commonwealth’s teachers. Many of us in the legislature were educated in this state’s fine elementary, middle, and high schools. Many of our children attend those same schools, and some of us are even lucky enough to have grandchildren in those schools.

It was in Kentucky’s public classrooms that we heard inspiring tales of our founding fathers, Congress, people, and presidents that first lit a fire in me and others to pursue this type of work.

Our commitment to our teachers does not end when their service to our Commonwealth’s students ends.

So, today, I will address the work we did during the 2014 session for education and our retired teachers.

For KTRS, we included continued funding for obligated sick leave payments for members retiring over the next two years. Those payments amount to $4.52 million in fiscal year 2015 and $9.448 million in fiscal year 2016, and fulfill the amortization requirement to provide that funding.

We included $35.39 million next fiscal year to cover shortfalls in the state’s contribution to KTRS in fiscal years 2011 and 2013.

We continue funding of debt service on previously issued bonds for the retirement system in the amounts of $120.69 million next fiscal year and $116.43 million the following fiscal year.

We provide an additional $11.5 million next fiscal year and $22.6 million in fiscal year 2016 in state General Funds as required by KRS 161.550 to cover the state’s costs of retiree health insurance for members not yet eligible for Medicare who have retired since July 1, 2010.

Finally, we recommended in state budget language that funds be pledged to KTRS to reduce unfunded pension liability as debt service funding requirements for previously-issued bonds lessen.

I wish more could have been done for our retirees in the last session, including inclusion of the additional “ad hoc” COLA. I believe, however, that will be remedied in the next budget cycle as more funds hopefully become available.

For education overall: The new budget includes raises for teachers now in the classroom --and classified school staff --of at least one percent next fiscal year and at least 2 percent in fiscal year 2016.

We provided almost $6 BILLION in state General Fund dollars over the two years for SEEK, and INCREASED the SEEK base from $3,827 per student this fiscal year to $3,911 next fiscal year and $3,981 in fiscal year 2016. Language was included requiring any unspent SEEK dollars be allocated to KTRS, and applied toward the system’s unfunded liability, but that was vetoed by the governor.

We also provided equalization funding of $1.4 million in fiscal year 2015 and $1.5 million in fiscal year 2016 for 10 districts that levied the additional nickel equivalent-tax for facilities.

Much more was accomplished, and I will share some of that with you in my next article. Until then, enjoy the spring weather and have a good week.

Please share your ideas with me by e-mailing Brent.Yonts@lrc.ky.gov. You can also send me a letter addressed to: Rep. Brent Yonts, Capitol Annex, Rm. 366 A, 702 Capitol Ave., Frankfort KY 40601.

Brent Yonts