School board approves tentative budget

COVINGTON - The Newton County Board of Education has completed the next step in its budget process.

During its regular monthly meeting Tuesday, the board members unanimously approved the tentative budget for the 2009-10 school year with no changes from what was presented at a previous work session.

The proposed budget totals $158,547,706 in revenue and $149,090,406 in expenditures, leaving an ending reserve fund balance of $9,457,300.

With the proposed budget, the board doesn't expect to increase its millage rate, leaving it at 19.21 mills, with 18.21 mills used for maintenance and operations and 1 mill used for debt service.

Steven Whatley, superintendent of the Newton County School System, said anticipated revenue is a .6 percent, or $83,749, increase from the 2008-09 school year. Expenditures are budgeted with a 3.1 percent, or $4,479,924, increase, due, in part, to having to pay a portion of state health benefits and teacher retirement.

As a result of the increase in expenditures, Whatley has called for a decrease of more than 57 school- and system-level positions and increasing class sizes to the maximum allowed amount.

Revenue in the proposed budget is comprised of more than 40 percent in local sources and nearly 60 percent from state sources. The expenditures include nearly 88 percent in salaries and benefits, 3 percent in utilities and fuel, 4 percent in repairs and maintenance and about 5 percent in equipment and furniture, textbooks and supplies and other items like staff development, insurance and professional services and fees.

The budget is built on student enrollment, with a minimum projected enrollment of 19,845 students and the maximum of 21,394. Currently, the student enrollment at NCSS is 19,188 and has grown by only a couple hundred students since last school year.

The final budget isn't expected to be approved by the school board until June and is subject to change up until that point.

NCSS officials invite the public to review the tentative budget on the NCSS Web site, www.newtoncountyschools.org, or by obtaining a copy at the Newton County BOE building, which is located at 2109 Newton Drive N.E. in Covington.

The Newton County BOE is expected to hold its monthly work session on June 9 and a regular session meeting on June 16. Both are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the board room at the Newton County BOE building. The school board isn't required to hold any public hearings this year because the tax digest did not go up due to reassessments, according to Sherri Viniard, director of public relations for NCSS.

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