School board to vote on budget changes

COVINGTON - Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley is recommending the approval of a net mid-term adjustment of more than $330,000.

Deborah Robertson, associate superintendent for administration at NCSS, said this figure is lower than in some previous years because the school system's enrollment isn't as high as in previous years.

"Mid-term adjustment is based on the number of students we have. If we don't have as much increased enrollment, then our needs are not as great," she said.

Whatley said the school system's recommendation of $3.3 million in expenditure recommendations is based on a preliminary additional revenue estimate of more than $3.4 million and a $200,000 budgeted contingency.

"Of the slightly more than $3.4 million anticipated in additional revenue, $2.5 million is a result of additional revenue due to increased student growth. The remaining is a result of additional state and E-Rate funds," reads Whatley's recommendation to the Newton County Board of Education.

The total additional expenditures is more than $3.3 million - more than $2 million for the 2007-08 school year and more than $1.2 million for the summer and preparation of the 2008-09 school year.

"Of the additional funds expended for this year's operations, almost $1.2 million went toward salaries and benefits to pay teachers and other staff needed due to increased student enrollment and other requirements, such as No Child Left Behind," Whatley's recommendation reads. "Another $1 million was expended on technology and related trailer moving expenses due to Choice and maximum class size."

The 2007-08 expenditures also included $116,625 in increased costs in health insurance; $47,826 for library book security at Newton High School; $25,000 for band equipment at Newton and Eastside high schools; and $156,896 in emergency maintenance items, staph infection control, modifying the day care room at Sharp Learning Center, additional waste management services and repairing lights at the Newton High School baseball field, according to a preliminary estimate for the 2007-08 Mid-Term Adjustment from NCSS.

Whatley's recommendation is requesting the board approve more than $1.2 million for summer and funding needed to prepare for the start of the 2008-09 school year.

This includes $150,000 in start-up instructional costs for the new South Salem Elementary School; $59,759 for band uniforms at Newton High School; $24,528 for Advanced Placement exams; $10,000 for middle school band and chorus programs; and $221,930 for the purchase of library books at Rocky Plains Elementary School and Alcovy High School that are needed to meet SACS requirements.

It also includes $135,000 in additional fuel costs.

"Fuel was purchased in February at an average cost of $2.80 per gallon, for a total cost of $135,807. This is an increase of $.17 a gallon over the average amount paid in January," reads the administrative services report from Robertson. "Fuel costs continue to rise, and the last purchase was $3.17 per gallon. In comparison, in February 2007 we averaged paying $2.13 per gallon."

Robertson said at Tuesday's board work session that because of the increased cost in fuel prices, the school system is proposing a midterm adjustment.

"It's not over yet," she said about rising fuel costs.

Some of the items the school system are requesting for the summer and in preparation of the 2008-09 school year are "have to haves," while others are "would like to haves," Whatley said during Tuesday's board work session.

"With additional expenditures, we're going to have to be very careful ... given we don't know what the state is going to do. ... (The additional revenue) may be cut, based on the governor's concerns to cut $3.10 million out of the (state) budget," Whatley said. "We've got concerns we're going to look at."

The board members could remove some of the items on the list of expenditures or approve all of them.

Robertson said if the state legislature cuts funding, which the school system might not know of until the end of April or later, then some items will have to be removed from the list.

The board will vote on the recommendation at its monthly board meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the board room of the Newton County Board of Education building, located at 2109 Newton Drive in Covington.

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