NCSS cautious about more tax revenues

Photo by Sharra Klug

Photo by Sharra Klug

COVINGTON -- The Newton County School System could receive about $2 million more in revenues than previously expected next school year, but system officials remain cautious until they actually see the money.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners announced Monday that the county may have a less-than-expected loss in the tax digest, but the tax appraiser's office warned that some large tax appraisal appeals are pending.

"That's exciting," said Dr. Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent of Operations at NCSS, on Tuesday during the Newton County Board of Education's monthly work session.

Still, system officials are urging caution until those predictions are more of a reality.

"From my perspective, I'm not ready to urge any kind of new spending to the Board of Education at this time," said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews on Wednesday. "Things are still too much in flux."

He said if NCSS does end up with an extra $2 million or so, he feels it would be wise to apply the money to the deficit expected for the 2013-14 school year.

This school year's ending fund balance is expected to be about $11.4 million, and if all spending and revenues remain the same, next year's ending fund balance is expected to be about $7.5 million, and the 2012-13 school year's balance would be about $2.5 million. The following school year could see a deficit of more than $2.3 million if the same holds true.

Mathews said if that were to happen, the school board would have to cut nearly $7 million from the budget that year to maintain a minimalist fund balance of under $5 million. Systems in Georgia are asked to maintain at least 7 percent of their budgets in reserves, and they cannot operate with a negative fund balance.

"We hope to have good financial news going forward," Mathews said. "But we must be more cautious as to what the actual news may be going into the 2013-14 school year."

He said the system has concerns about protecting its technology infrastructure, and he wants to avoid any further reduction in force if possible.

Already this 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 at Sharp Learning Center, which will dissolve and be outsourced with the development of an Ombudsman alternative school program.

"Any additional revenue will certainly help," Mathews said.