COVINGTON -- Taxes are coming into the Newton County School System better than expected this school year, which could help increase the general fund budget by $1.5 million.
NCSS Business Manager Peggy Bullard reported to the Newton County Board of Education Tuesday during its monthly work session that she is expecting the system to collect about $1.5 million more than estimated in ad valorem and other tax revenues.
System officials expected to receive $40,737,025 in ad valorem taxes and other taxes this school year, which began July 1 and ends June 30.
However, according to the general fund financial statement for the month ending March 31 with 75 percent of the school year complete, NCSS already has received $41,104,717, or 100.90 percent of the estimated budgeted amount. The category includes ad valorem automobile taxes, timber taxes when timber is cut and transfer taxes when real estate is sold.
Bullard said NCSS will continue to collect vehicle taxes for the rest of the year and could expect to receive about $1.5 million over budget if collections keep pace with what has been received so far.
"We have 'budgeted down' in that we only budgeted for 95 percent collections," Bullard said Wednesday. "We did have some bad collection years recently."
Some of the increase this year may be due to collections for prior years, she said.
Any extra revenues received will be added to the general fund budget, she said.
The system had planned to hold $7.5 million in reserves from its $138 million budget, which is just over 5 percent of the budget and less than the 7 percent recommended by the state. The school board made more than $8 million in cuts for this school year.
During Tuesday's work session, NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews reiterated a point he had made in January -- "the administration doesn't envision any substantial budget reductions" for the 2012-13 school year. However, in February, the school board approved a calendar with six furlough days for teachers next school year.
Bullard said "everything is coming together" with planning for next school year's budget, but her office still is waiting to hear more about state revenues.
"That is one big piece we're missing," she said.
She said NCSS could lose some state funding next school year because of decreased enrollment.
In March, NCSS saw an enrollment of 267 fewer students than March 2011; student enrollment is currently calculated at 18,991 students. Enrollment is down from 19,066 students reported in February, according to enrollment reports.
Central office administrators said they don't know why they are losing so many students on a monthly and yearly basis.
Even with the added revenues from the taxes, Mathews said the school board could be forced to make cuts for the 2013-14 school year.
"We don't know if that's the case, but that's likely the case," he said.
School board member Almond Turner suggested the board meet for a special work session to proactively plan some possible cuts. Mathews agreed but suggested the board wait a couple of months until the administration has more figures.
"I'd like to get a better, real sense on how the numbers are going to play out," he said, adding that he'd hate to remove a program that could impact student learning and look back, realizing the program didn't have to be cut after all.
For the rest of the month, system officials still are compiling a preliminary budget, according to the budget schedule.
During Tuesday's monthly meeting, Mathews plans to present the school board with preliminary budget data.
On May 8, the superintendent plans to present a tentative budget to the school board. From May 9 through 14 and again from May 23 through June 12, the school board may hold work sessions on the tentative budget.
On May 15, the school board plans to adopt a tentative budget, but the budget can change until the board is scheduled to adopt a final budget on June 19.
From June 26 through July 17, the school board may hold public hearings related to the millage rate for next year. The board plans to adopt a millage rate on July 17.
Meetings are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the board room at the Newton County BOE building at 2109 Newton Drive NE in Covington.