BOE approves $162M budget

COVINGTON - The Newton County Board of Education unanimously approved the Newton County School System's proposed 2009 budget during its monthly meeting Tuesday night.

The approval of the final budget isn't scheduled until the board's next monthly meeting June 17, but the board approved the proposal so it can make any changes and hold public hearings until it approves the final budget.

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 2008 budget, which was $144,562,874, not including the reserve fund balance.

Major expenditures include more than $131 million in salaries and benefits, which make 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 actual reductions of $704,522 in 2002, more than $5 million in 2004 and almost $1.5 million last year. The school system has not received more than $20 million from the state over the last eight years, NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley said during the board's work session.

Whatley said the system's budget is built on student enrollment. For the next school year, NCSS projects a minimum elementary school enrollment of 9,423, while the maximum is 10,924. The system predicts an enrollment 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 total 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 up, according to the school system.

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 number since it was increased in 2006.

The board also unanimously approved Tuesday the dates and times of three required public hearings to discuss the budget and hear public concerns, questions and comments: 6:45 p.m. June 10 and at 9 a.m. and 6:45 p.m. June 17. All meetings are held in the board room at the Newton County Board of Education building, located at 2109 Newton Drive N.E., in Covington.

The board will hold its regular session monthly meeting in the board room at 7 p.m. on June 17, when it will vote on the budget.

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