Schools approve $159M budget

COVINGTON - The Newton County Board of Education approved the school system's 2009-10 school year budget during its regular meeting Tuesday night, allowing for some school nurses to be rehired and reinstating the services of graduation coaches and a college and financial aid advisor.

During the meeting, the board members unanimously approved the $159,727,773 budget, which includes a $10,358,767, or nearly 6.5 percent, reserve fund balance.

"This is a very tight budget," said Superintendent Steven Whatley in a previous meeting, adding that the budget year will be filled with uncertainty and that all budget items might not be expended, even though it is budgeted.

The final budget, which is based on a student enrollment of between 19,845 and 21,394, includes an increase of $278,600 in expenditures from the original budget that the school system proposed to the board in May. After receiving more tax information in June, Whatley said the system expected to receive an additional $1,180,067 in revenues than what was "conservatively budgeted" in May.

With the expected increase, school officials decided to add back the expenditures to rehire five nurses who were previously terminated, as well as to allocate funds graduation coaches at the middle schools and include the salaries and benefits for a counselor at Sharp Learning Center, an extended day assignment of a college financial aid advisor at all three high schools and a part-time paraprofessional at each elementary school - all of which had been reduced in February due to budget cuts.

Also during Tuesday's meeting, the board unanimously approved a millage rate of 19.21 mills, with 18.21 mills used for maintenance and operations and 1 mill used for debt service. This is the fifth fiscal year that the millage rate will remain at that rate.