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Newton school board approves $145M tentative budget

COVINGTON --The Newton County Board of Education approved a tentative budget that is nearly 3 percent higher than last school year's budget.

During its regular monthly meeting Tuesday, the school board unanimously approved the tentative budget, which totals $145,412,382, 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, greater than last school year's budget.

Dr. Dennis Carpenter, deputy superintendent of Operation, previously said that expenditures have increased 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 and Career Academy.

During a special called meeting earlier in the day Tuesday to discuss the budget, Carpenter said moving to a three-tiered bus system as NCSS did this school year did not save as much as originally expected because of the extra hours that bus drivers have to drive. Since about 50 transportation positions were cut this school year, however, health insurance costs did not increase as much as they could have if they had more employees.

According to the line-item budget presented during the special called meeting, salary expenditures for bus drivers will increase $478,231 to be more in line with what was spent this school year.

Carpenter said the transportation department expects to make routes more efficient next school year to see more savings.

Also in the special called meeting, the board discussed with system officials the savings that could be realized by adding one or two more students per classroom at the request of School Board Chair Eddie Johnson.

Carpenter presented the board with a chart that showed how increasing classes by one student -- or having between 22 and 32 students per class -- could save more than $2 million in the budget by eliminating 41 teachers in elementary and middle schools; about $300,000 could be saved at the high school level by eliminating a few more teachers, he said.

Increasing student classes by two students -- or having between 23 and 33 students per class -- could save about $3 million by eliminating about 60 teachers across all grade levels.

Johnson said he was hoping to pass the savings on to principals at the building level, for extra payment for graduation coaches or to help offset six furlough days this school year or decreased retirement funding.

"From a corporate standpoint, we need better productivity," Johnson said in the meeting, adding that newer technology and procedures added each school year should better aid teachers.

Carpenter informed Johnson that teacher contracts already have been given out, and about half of any vacant positions have been filled, so any plans to decrease that many staff would likely have to be done next school year.

None of the other school board members commented on the topic.

The budget can change until the school board is scheduled to adopt a final budget on June 19 during a combined work session and regular session monthly meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the board room at the Newton County BOE building at 2109 Newton Drive NE in Covington.

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 -- it 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.

No other special called meetings or public hearings have been announced.

Comments

OnToday 2 years, 3 months ago

So Carpenter's plan to change the bus schedules didn't save us any money, and now they want to add more kids in each class. Brilliant. Simply brilliant. Cue the circus/clown music.

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HonestAbe 2 years, 3 months ago

This much property tax to a school system having this many problems. It shows that money does not fix all the problems. It's time for changes at the top. Let's give someone else a chance to fix the problems. ADDING to class size is not the answer. CUTTING at the top maybe. As a property taxpayer i am simply embarressed to have a system with maxed out millage rates every year with problem such as principals sueing citizens and her husband looking for jobs all the time showing up in the paper and fights and food fights showing up on Youtube with a superintentant who seems to think this is normal.

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nc_citizen64 2 years, 3 months ago

Also...teachers pay 100% of their health benefits and retirement is funded at a measly 1/2 % The old tired political line that teacher retirement and health benefits are breaking the budget just doesn't ring true for NCSS. This went into effect two years ago as a 'cost saving measure'.

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momofone 2 years, 3 months ago

I think it is pathetic that the solution to solving the budget it to add more students per classroom allowing them to get rid of teachers. That may solve their budget issues allowing the ones at the top to keep their pay, but (in my opinion) this will harm the students. I thought that the school system was about teaching the students and helping to make our youth more productive citizens and helping them learn to be able to enter the workforce. It seems to me that this is not the answer. The school is not supposed to be a corporation who only cares about the bottom line, it is supposed to be a school system-teaching our youth.

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Frustrated 2 years, 3 months ago

I wonder how many of the teachers that get cut will be the teachers that commented in the Citizen?

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OnToday 2 years, 3 months ago

It's funny that Eddie Johnson has no problem with an attack on free speech (Alcovy principal suing concerned citizens for voicing opinions) yet all of a sudden he gets on his Constitutional soap box concerning separation of church and state. At the BOE meeting Tues night he got all bent out of shape with the proposed Christian Learning Center. Where

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John 2 years, 3 months ago

The main underlying issue to the school budget issue & all taxpayer supported government services is declining tax revenues caused from the economic down turn since 2007 (some say in 2008 but the housing bubble broke in GA in mid 2007) compounded by falling property values - mine dropped again for 2012 (this equals even less tax revenue) and a significant increase in the population of Newton County (more demand on the school system & other city/county services). In order maintain the same level of service as in the good times is to increase revenue via increase in taxes and/or find ways to cut costs and stop spending on "special interest" projects (like a trail from EHS to the library, etc). I was taught by my parents (they lived through the Depression) one always needs to save for a rainy day. Economically speaking it has been raining for a long time - since mid 2007 IMO.

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HonestAbe 2 years, 3 months ago

John has hit the nail on the head. My parents also lived during the depression. As a family you have but one choice. You have to cut your budget. It want work to go ask for a raise in poor times, most likely you will get a pay cut. For politicians they have two choices. They can cut services, as we have to do, or they can raise taxes. So is the difference between being conservative or liberal. You can't have it both ways. If you want low taxes you have to put up with less services so you shouldn't complain. If you want all the services you can't complain about increasing taxes. But there is a problem when your tax increases but you still don't get the services and improvements witin the system as with our school system. In this case most everyone gets upset. The problem in these cases rest entirely on the upper management. As long as you don't make the proper changes you can't expect any improvement.

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