NCSS sizes up budget to others

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Newton County School System has compared itself with seven other school systems in Georgia while making decisions about possible cuts to next school year's budget.

Superintendent Gary Mathews, who said he values data, took a look at seven other like-sized systems ranging in enrollment from 15,524 to 25,015 students, to compare to Newton County, which serves about 19,000 students. Rockdale County serves about 15,500 students, Dougherty nearly 16,000, Fayette about 21,750, Coweta about 22,000, Columbia about 23,100, Bibb about 24,500 and Douglas about 25,000.

He has compared 10 major expenditure categories -- including instruction, pupil and staff services, general and school-based administration, transportation, and maintenance and operations -- to see how Newton County ranks among the other school systems.

NCSS ranks seventh among the comparable systems in percent of total expenditures for general administration, which means that only one of the other school systems spends less than NCSS, Mathews said.

The system ranks eighth out of the eight systems in the percent of total expenditures for school-based administration, and it ranks second in the percent of total spent on instruction, meaning that the system spends more on instruction than most of the other comparable systems, Mathews said.

He added that all of the eight systems spend less than 1 percent of their total expenditures on general administration and school-based administration.

Mathews said earlier this month that he would be concerned about cutting more staff positions at the central office level because of continued federal and state accountability with less oversight. He said his previous school system in Virginia employed 46 central office administrators in a system of 10,500 students; NCSS has 26 administrators for 19,000 students.

NCSS is expecting to cut about $9 million from its 2011-12 school year budget. Mathews is rating $13 million worth of possible cuts, including calendar and schedule changes to eliminate some staff positions, new alternative education and transportation system to eliminate staff, a reduction in central office budgets and board contribution to a retirement plan and services and the elimination of some paraprofessionals, school resources officers, school administrators and maintenance and custodial staffs.

A public forum discussing possible budget cuts is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 3 at Alcovy High School, during which Mathews will present school budget information and seek public input.

School stakeholders also are asked to give input and take a survey regarding possible budget cuts via the NCSS website, www.newtoncountyschools.org. It will be available until 5 p.m. Feb. 8.

School councils and PTO presidents also will give their input on the possible items in the budget cuts survey.

The superintendent and his executive leadership team will consider items and make a list of tentative cuts, Mathews has said. He expects to present a proposal to the school board in February or March for the board to consider until April. The board is expected to approve a tentative budget by May and a final budget in June; school systems in Georgia have until May 15 to extend contracts to teachers.