NCSS starts process to approve budget

COVINGTON - The Newton County School System presented the school system's 2008-09 budget for the first time during Tuesday's monthly work session when NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley presented the Newton County Board of Educations members with a presentation on the tentative general fund budget.

The approval of the final budget won't be until June, but the tentative budget is presented now so the board members can hold public hearings and discuss any changes.

The board will vote Tuesday on the proposed budget and will be allowed to change it up until the final adoption.

Currently, the budget totals $161,977,380 in revenue - with $150,857,710 in expenditures and a reserve fund balance of $11,119,670. The budget is comprised of more than 40 percent local sources and more than 59 percent state sources, as well as the beginning fund balance from last year's budget.

The 2009 budget is 4.35 percent higher than the previous one, which was $144,562,874, not including the reserve fund balance.

Major expenditures include more than $131 million in salaries and benefits, which makes up more than 87 percent of the budget, and more than

$5 million in utilities and fuel, $5.5 million in repairs and maintenance, $2 million in equipment and furniture and $2.6 million in textbooks and supplies.

This year, the school is budgeting for more than $1 million in state revenue reductions, compared to $704,522 in 2002, more than $5 million in 2004 and almost $1.5 million last year.

"As the state experiences revenue reductions, it passes (them) down to the school system," Whatley said Tuesday. "Over a period of eight years, the school system has not received more than $20 million that it earned to operate the district."

Board member C.C. Bates suggested the board look into educational foundations to fund special projects or help with the budget cuts.

Whatley said the budget is built on student enrollment. The system's minimum elementary school enrollment projections is 9,423, while the maximum is 10,924.

"We take the actual enrollment of schools in January of this year to made the predictions," Whatley said.

The system predicts between 4,434 and 4,947 for its middle schools and between 5,615 and 5,685 for its three high schools, which gives a grand total of between 19,472 and 21,556. The higher end isn't expected since growth in Newton County wasn't as high this school year and property foreclosures are still high.

With the predictions, the system expects a need of 53 regular and special education teachers for next school year and 46 school-level and system-level staff, including two additional counselors, 11 paraprofessionals, four secretaries, 18 bus drivers and three assistant principals.

The school system is proposing the millage rate remain at 19.21, which has been the same since it was increased in 2006.

The board also will vote Tuesday for three required public hearings to discuss the budget and hear public concerns, questions and comments: 6:45 p.m. June 10; 9 a.m. June 17; and 6:45 p.m. June 17.

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