School board approves budget

Covington - Newton County Board of Education members unanimously approved the Newton County School System's 2008-09 general fund budget during their June meeting last week.

The budget totals $161,977,380 in revenue and $151,330,482 in expenditures, leaving an ending fund balance of $10,646,898.

The expenditures total is a $472,772 increase from what was originally presented to the board in May. NCSS officials initially presented expenditures of $150,857,710, leaving an ending fund balance of $11,119,670, which is less than one month's operating expenses.

"It's a very tight budget," Superintendent Steven Whatley said.

The changes are due to a $123,598 increase in equipment and furniture, a $150,000 increase in repairs and maintenance and three additional system-level positions, including one in transportation support, a technology specialist and central office support.

The budget, which is more than 4 percent higher than the 2007-08 budget, is made up of more than 40 percent from local sources and more than 59 percent in state sources, as well as the beginning fund balance from last year's budget reserves.

Major expenditures in the budget include more than $131 million in salaries and benefits, which makes up more than 87 percent of the budget, and $2.1 million in equipment and furniture, $5.7 million in repairs maintenance, $2.1 million in equipment and furniture and more than $5 million in utilities and fuel.

School officials said if gas prices continue to rise, the board should expect a midterm adjustment request for fuel next year.

The budgeted fuel costs of $1.4 million for the 2007-08 school year were expended in May after a $150,000 midterm adjustment, so the school system had to move around funds from other expenditures to provide fuel for the rest of the summer.

School system officials did not make any changes to fuel costs from the original proposed budget.

Board members also unanimously agreed during the meeting that the millage rate would remain at 19.21 mills, including 18.21 mills for maintenance and operations and 1 mill for debt service. The rate has been the same since it was increased by 1 mill in 2006 and is below the rollback rate of 18.264 as presented in the tax digest from the tax office.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.