BOE OKs maxed-out millage rate

Photo by Jimmy Hislope

Photo by Jimmy Hislope

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Board of Education approved a maxed-out millage rate at its monthly meeting Tuesday night.

The school board approved the millage rate for maintenance and operations at 20 mills; school board Chair Almond Turner was absent from the meeting. Although the rollback rate -- or the rate at which the Newton County School System would collect the same amount of local revenue as last school year -- is 21.5 mills, by law NCSS can only have a rate as high as 20 mills.

The millage rate for debt service, which is allowed to be increased, was raised from 1 mill to 1.073 mills. NCSS Deputy Superintendent Dennis Carpenter said because of the decrease in the tax digest this year, the millage rate for debt service must be increased to meet financial obligations.

Additionally, NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews said that it may be necessary to contribute $220,000 in SPLOST funds to meet the obligations.

The school board approved its final budget for the 2011-12 school year last month. The approved budget includes $131,158,750 in expenditures and $7,471,311 to be held in reserves.

NCSS is expecting local revenue for this school year to total $49,827,256, including the beginning fund balance. 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, more than $5 million for utilities and fuel, $5.7 million for repairs and maintenance, $2.3 million in instructional textbooks and supplies and more than $5 million in other departments, such as furniture, professional learning, insurance, professional services and fees.

The budget is expected to support student enrollment of about 9,000 elementary school students, 4,500 middle school students and 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 previous 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 previous school year.

The school board also gave Mathews permission to employ or transfer staff members during the first month of school depending on demand.

"This is something we do every single year," Carpenter said. "We make allocations ... and we may be off a teacher or two at a particular site ... before the board meets again."

Major staff cuts for the school year include 47 teacher positions at the high school level being reduced 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 that will dissolve and be outsourced with the development of an Ombudsman alternative school program.