Kentucky’s last legislative session brought notable funding to Paducah and McCracken County.
McCracken will receive approximately $46 million in highway funding through House Bill 242 for fiscal years 2022-24 as part of the state’s two-year transportation budget.
Barkley Regional Airport has been allocated $5.3 million by HB 241 for the 2023-24 fiscal year. The airport and West Kentucky Community and Technical College received $900,000 by Senate Bill 1 for the 2022-23 fiscal year to start a university aviation program.
District 3 State Representative Randy Bridges, R-Paducah, said securing the funds took time.
“We have been working on it since the end of last year. We are spending more money on education, roads and infrastructure than ever before. It’s a priority for us here in District 3, and we’re excited about it,” Bridges told The Sun. He added, of the aviation program, “I think it’s one of the most accomplished things we have because aeronautics and education are the main engines of the state.”
McCracken County Executive Judge Craig Clymer, County Commissioner Bill Bartleman and Barkley Airport Executive Director Dennis Rouleau thanked the state officials for their efforts.
“The McCracken County appropriations will create better, much-needed roads both for economic development and for our local residents to get around the community more efficiently and safely,” Clymer said.
Rouleau said Barkley would coordinate with the Kentucky State Transportation Cabinet on how to appropriate the funds “once the dust settles.”
Bartleman previously lobbied for airport funding from Clymer and County Commissioners Eddie Jones and Jeff Parker.
“It was a regional project rather than a city project,” Bartleman said. “Road projects are also important, especially the triple rail site, which is necessary to attract industry.”
Mentioning a recent visit from an aerospace start-up considering Paducah as a potential location, he said, “The timing couldn’t have been better.”
Kevin O’Neill, WKCTC vice president of regional workforce training and economic development, said there was a critical need for the two-year aviation program. The $900,000 will also help prepare the hangar for classes.
WKCTC’s sister colleges, Jefferson Community and Technical College and Somerset Community College, already have well-established aviation programs.
“It will bring businesses to Paducah from St. Louis or other places,” O’Neill said, estimating the program’s start date at “one year.” We already teach some of these courses, but they are not part of the full curriculum. I would be remiss if I did not thank our legislators for pushing for these funds.
State funding for full-day kindergarten was passed by SB1 amid HB9, a controversial charter school funding bill.
“A misnomer is that we can give teachers raises, but constitutionally they are not state employees,” Bridges said in response to a statewide debate. “All we can do is provide funding to each school district, and the school boards give raises. (Funding) full-day kindergarten will release funds.
Over time, Paducah Independent School District Superintendent Donald Shively said state funding has gradually declined to a 50-50 state-to-local ratio, with local taxes offsetting operating losses. .
For the 2023-2024 school year, a new Head Start building will offer full-day pre-kindergarten.
“Additional funds mean less local tax revenue to cover costs,” Shively said. “We appreciate the two-year investment in funding a full day; I would say that has to be something that we continually commit to as a state going forward.
The funding will increase the district’s full-day slots from 280 to 310 and add “flexibility, but I would caution (about) rising inflation,” he said.
“Our faculty and staff have done an amazing job serving children during COVID and deserve every bit of extra money we can (spare).”
“It funds a service that we have provided to our students for years,” said McCracken County School District Superintendent Steve Carter. “We are enjoying the next two years and hope our legislators will codify this in future sessions. This will allow funds to flow to other needs that are underfunded.
“We also secured funding for the Paducah Symphony Orchestra. It was truly a team effort and I am happy to be part of the committee where most of these decisions were made to secure much needed funding for this part of the state,” Majority Leader Steven Rudy said. in the House, District 1-R. The sun. He referred to HB8, which lowers personal income tax from 5% to 4% in 2023.
The PSO received $2 million through SB1 for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Executive director Reece King said he would go to The Dunlap project, which takes place at the former Walter C. Jetton High School in Paducah.
A Louisville-based developer, The Marian Group, is carrying out the more than $14 million redevelopment project on the Jetton campus, which includes new and renovated housing and the restoration of Symphony Hall. The PSO is partnering with The Marian Group as a tenant and the symphony orchestra will move its administrative offices to the renovated facilities and also launch a new music academy. However, the symphony will still give concerts at the Carson Center.
The new $2 million in funding will go towards building the symphony hall portion of The Dunlap project, as well as educational facilities, according to the PSO.
King said the symphony orchestra wants to attract new teachers to the area and provide accessible classes for students. It is looking to have a limited private lesson program hopefully starting in the spring of 2023 – provided construction is complete – with a full launch of academy programming in the fall of 2023.
King explained that this is an education and economic development project.
“We were fortunate to have financial assistance for the operations of the academy, but as far as building the space…it will definitely help without having to fragment it,” he said.
He was one of several people interviewed by The Sun who mentioned significant inflation when discussing fund credits.
“Initially, when this project was presented, the developer thought that all construction costs would be covered. This was pre-COVID, so with this funding, we are back to where we started in the planning,” a- he declared.
Starting in the summer of 2022, HB63 is expanding the jurisdiction of School Safety Officers.
District 2 State Senator Danny Carroll, R-Benton, said the idea “would allow school districts to create campus police departments similar to Commonwealth college and university police departments.” .
“I think it’s a great option for McCracken, who has SLEOs (special law enforcement officers),” Carroll told The Sun.
“They can become department certified (if they want), which would give them access to other federal agents. For emergencies, there is an additional access. Districts can decide for themselves which models to use; it’s just one more tool in the tool belt.