NCSS to spend nearly $6M less next school year

Photo by Kari Adkins

Photo by Kari Adkins

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Board of Education is expected to approve next week its tentative budget for the 2011-12 school year.

Officials at the Newton County School System presented next school year's tentative general fund budget at the board's monthly work session on Tuesday night.

NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews is proposing a $138,630,061 budget, including $131,158,750 used for expenditures and $7,471,311 to be held in reserves. Originally, reserves were expected at $12.1 million, but they will be decreased due to increased insurance requirements, gas increases and other unexpected costs, according to Dr. Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent at NCSS.

The budget is $5,992,400, or 4.37 percent, less than this school year's operating budget, according to Carpenter's report to the school board.

Next school year is expected to start with at least an $11 million beginning fund balance carried over from this school year.

Currently, NCSS estimated local revenues to be at $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 resources, which is more than 64 percent of 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, as well as 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.

Next year, NCSS isn't expected to receive $13,926,623 from the state that it is calculated to receive through allotments under a state formula; the amount is more than this school year's state reduction of $11,599,332. Since 2006, NCSS has not received $43,762,546 that it was calculated to receive from the state.

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 estimate includes about 9,000 elementary school students, about 4,500 middle school students and about 5,500 high school students.

"We're kind of shooting in the dark," Carpenter said, adding that staff evaluated enrollment based on trends, the economy and current enrollment.

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 cuts 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 at Sharp Learning Center that will dissolve and be outsourced with the development of an Ombudsman alternative school program.

Carpenter said the system can apply for waivers from the state if some classes are between one and three students over the maximum class size. Class sizes are expected to range from 21 to 32 students, according to his presentation.

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 some to 1.12. Carpenter said it is expected to increase because the value of a mill continues to decrease, and NCSS should know if that increase is final in late July once he hears from the tax assessors office.

The school board members didn't feel the need to meet in any other special sessions this week or next week. It is expected to approve a tentative budget at its regular session monthly meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday in the board room at the Newton County BOE building at 2109 Newton Drive NE in Covington.

The school board is expected to approve a final budget in June.