COVINGTON -- Some Newton County schools could get some upgraded technology this year as a result of some unexpected federal revenues.
The Newton County School System could receive nearly $1.2 million in federal reimbursements that it could use for technology upgrades at some schools; some of the money also may be added to the system's general fund budget.
In the past when NCSS has upgraded technology or built new schools, it would apply for federal reimbursement through the E-Rate program, which provides schools and libraries between 20 and 90 percent of spent funds for telecommunication, Internet and networking equipment based on the district's free and reduced lunch rate.
In the past, the program hasn't funded schools to the fullest level. Some schools have stopped applying for funding for already updated schools because of being denied funding, but NCSS Director of Technology Gary Shattuck has kept applying for funds for each school in hopes of one day receiving funds.
"It may pay off this year," said Shattuck during a special called meeting of the Newton County Board of Education on Monday.
The program is expected to fund every application that was filed in March 2010 to spend previous years' unspent funds.
In 2010, NCSS spent or planned to spend more than $1.5 million on technology for Flint Hill Elementary, the Newton College & Career Academy and the new Newton High School. At least $1,180,506 is expected to be reimbursed to NCSS -- most should be received this year but some may be received next school year.
Shattuck told school board members that NCSS has five schools that are in the greatest need for new technology. East Newton, Mansfield and Oak Hill elementary schools, Indian Creek Middle School and Eastside High School haven't received proper technology renovations since the 1990s. Due to this, many of those schools constantly have technology problems.
To add adequate equipment, cabling and wireless to these schools, NCSS could expect to spend more than $1.3 million, but it would receive additional E-Rate funding of nearly $900,000 so it would only cost the system $450,000.
Additionally, Shattuck reported that six schools also could use some upgrades to equipment and wireless programs. Outfitting Fairview and Rocky Plains elementary schools, the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett, Cousins and Veterans Memorial middle schools and Alcovy High School would cost the system just under $475,000, but E-Rate funding would allow the system to spend just more than $100,000.
He didn't suggest that the other schools -- Heard-Mixon, Livingston, Live Oak, Middle Ridge, Porterdale, South Salem and West Newton elementary schools and Clements and Liberty middle schools -- get upgrades yet because they either would move to higher E-Rate reimbursement levels next school year that could fund technology projects at 90 percent or the funds received would not be enough to supply what needs to be done.
Shattuck said this year could be the only time that NCSS would receive this much funding to provide adequate upgrades to system technology. He said the only other source of funds in the future would be through SPLOST funding in three years, if it was approved by voters.
During Monday's meeting, the school board approved for Shattuck to move forward with plans to upgrade the schools with the greatest and second greatest technology needs.
Whatever revenues are leftover from the E-Rate reimbursement, NCSS may use to put toward the general fund or use for something else.
"There are no strings attached to this money," Shattuck said. "We've already spent it."
By November, Shattuck is expected to present a complete report to the school board about plans to renovate or relocate the system's network operations center, which has been deemed overcrowded and potentially hazardous if it is not renovated soon. That project could cost between $4,000 and nearly $600,000; the remaining E-Rate funds could be added to the NCSS general fund.