Board to set millage rate today

Photo by Jason Wright

Photo by Jason Wright

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Board of Education is expected to set its millage rate for the 2011-12 school year at tonight's meeting, and although the rate is maxed out, residents still could see an increase in property taxes next year.

The $138 million budget that was presented by Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews last month is expected to retain a maxed-out millage rate of 20 mills. The maximum rate is set by state law. However, the current 1 mill rate for debt service is expected to increase to 1.12 mills because the value of a mill continues to decrease, according to Dr. Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent for operations.

The school board approved its final budget for the school year last month, but the board is not scheduled to vote on a millage rate until tonight, although it was part of the proposed budget. The school board is holding only one meeting this month, tonight's combined work session and monthly meeting, unlike the two it normally holds; it also is scheduled to hold one meeting in December.

The approved budget includes $131,158,750 in expenditures and $7,471,311 to be held in reserves, which is just over 5 percent of the budget and less than the 7 percent recommended by the state.

NCSS is expecting local revenues for next school year to total $49,827,256, including the beginning fund balance, or nearly 36 percent of the budget. It is expected to receive $88,802,805 in state and federal resources, according to the budget.

Major expenditures in the budget include $112,255,830 in salaries and benefits, which make up more than 85 percent of the budget, and more than $5 million for utilities and fuel, $5.7 million for repairs and maintenance, $2.3 million in instructional textbooks and supplies, more than $500,000 in equipment and furniture, and nearly $5.3 in other departments, like professional learning, insurance, professional services and fees.

The budget is expected to support a student enrollment of between 18,520 and 19,960, compared to the approximately 19,100 students currently enrolled in NCSS this year. The estimate includes about 9,000 elementary school students, about 4,500 middle school students and about 5,500 high school students.

The staff expected to support student enrollment totals 2,348 school- and system-level employees, which is nearly 230 employees less than the current school year. The totals include 2,038 school-level positions, or nearly 140 positions less than this year, and 309 system-level positions, or 89 less than the current school year.

Major staff cuts include 47 teacher positions at the high school level due to a change in high school scheduling, more than 40 bus drivers and dozens of other transportation staff due to a change in bell schedules and bus routes and about 50 staff members at Sharp Learning Center, which will be dissolved and outsourced with the development of an Ombudsman alternative school program.

Also during tonight's meeting, the school board is expected to vote on a contract for membership with Griffin Regional Education Service Agency, School Resource Officers and for HVAC services, according to the published agenda. The board also will decide on giving the superintendent authority to employ or transfer staff to meet enrollment demands during the first month of school, as has been done in the past.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the board room at the Newton County BOE building, which is located at 2109 Newton Drive NE in Covington.