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Newton school board approves 'tight' budget

Photo by WVLT Video

Photo by WVLT Video

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Board of Education has approved a budget for the 2011-12 school year that is nearly $6 million less than this school year's budget.

During the school board's monthly meeting on Tuesday, the members unanimously approved the proposed $138 million budget from Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews.

The budget totals $138,630,061, including $131,158,750 used for 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. Next school year is expected to start with at least an $11,394,127 beginning fund balance carried over from this school year.

School officials said the budget is tight and will be monitored closely.

"We expect to go through another year of uncertainty and will be very zealous in monitoring this budget," Mathews said in a memo to board members. "The mind set will continue to be that we operate in an emergency mode, and that just because it is budgeted, does not mean that it gets expended."

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 makes 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 million in other departments, like professional learning, insurance, professional services and fees.

The budget is expected to support student enrollment 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 less employees 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 at Sharp Learning Center that will dissolve and be outsourced with the development of an Ombudsman alternative school program.

The maintenance and operations millage rate is expected to stay maxed out at 20 mills, but the current 1 mill rate for debt services is expected to increase to 1.12 because the value of a mill continues to decrease, according to Dr. Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent for Operations.

NCSS should know if that increase is final in late July once hearing from the local tax assessors office, and the school board is expected to approve the final millage rate at its August meeting, according to Mathews.