Newton school board gets first look at tentative budget

COVINGTON -- After talking about the upcoming budget year for months, the Newton County Board of Education got a first look at a tentative budget for the 2012-13 school year this week.

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.

They are proposing a $145,412,382 budget, including $135,349,243 to be used for expenditures and $10,063,139 to be kept in a reserve fund.

The expenditures are $3,768,492, or 2.86 percent, higher than last school year's budget, according to Dr. Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent of Operations at NCSS.

He said expenditures are up mainly because of increases in state retirement and health benefits, as well as increases in transportation and additions to the Newton County Theme School and the Newton College & Career Academy.

Next school year is expected to begin with a $15,596,531 fund balance carried over from this school year. Local revenues are estimated to be at $52,650,204, or about 36 percent of the budget, while state resources are expected to be $92,762,178.

The budget is expected to support student enrollment between 17,621 and 19,224, compared to the approximately 19,100 students currently enrolled in NCSS. This estimate includes about 9,400 elementary school students, about 4,800 middle school students and about 5,800 high school students.

Class sizes are expected to be between 21 and 32 students per class next school year, and state waivers could allow for between one and three more students in some instances, Carpenter said.

School board Chair Eddie Johnson requested information about how adding one or two students per class would impact the budget financially; board member Shakila Henderson Baker said if NCSS is looking at that option financially, she would like to see how that would affect schools academically.

Staff positions are expected to increase by about 35 next school year, including 28 teachers, as well as a counselor, two paraprofessionals and part-time administration and some others, mainly for additions to the theme school and career academy.

Major expenditures in the budget include $116,838,634 in salaries and benefits, which makes up more than 86 percent of the budget, as well as nearly $5.1 million for utilities and fuel, nearly $4.7 million for repairs and maintenance, nearly $2.7 million in instructional textbooks and supplies, nearly $850,000 in equipment and furniture and nearly $5.3 in other departments, like professional learning, insurance, professional services and fees.

The millage rate is expected to increase to 21.90 from 21.073, including 20 mills for maintenance and operations and an estimated 1.9 for debt services, which would be an increase from 1.073. Carpenter said the jump might not be as high -- last year, officials originally thought the millage rate for debt would be about 1.1, but it ended up being 1.073.

The school board members have yet to set any special work sessions to discuss the budget.

On May 15, the school board plans to adopt a tentative budget, but the budget can change until it 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.