COVINGTON -- Next school year, the Newton County School System expects at least $2 million more to start than it had been expecting.
NCSS officials recently received more information about state revenues and increased tax collections that bettered its projections.
"As a result of this latest update, the projected fund balance two years out ending in the 2014-15 school year, is now a positive $1,881,986," according to NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews in an email Wednesday. "While hardly an amount to write home about -- it represents a mere 3.19 days of operating expenses -- it is still more encouraging than the March 20 projection of a negative $2.8 million."
The projected beginning fund balance for next school year has been adjusted up by $2 million after an analysis of tax collections indicates that NCSS will likely collect $2 million more than what was budgeted for the current school year. Delinquent collections are likely to be half of what they were for last school year -- about $900,000.
According to the business office, last year, 96 percent of current taxes were collected, and this school year, NCSS already has 96 percent of current taxes collected with more than three months still left to be booked.
"We've been getting a lot more in taxes this year and last year," Bullard said during the school board's monthly meeting Tuesday.
She added that since 2010, NCSS only has budgeted 95 percent for property tax collections, after previously budgeting 99.5 percent before the financial crisis.
Also, motor vehicle tax revenues should be up due to the new tax law.
"In the short term it looks like we'll see more money because of it," Bullard said.
She said that residents who move into the county or those who buy a new car now, pay a large upfront tax.
"We still have a whole lot of people paying the birthday tax. ... In the long run, it may work against us, as the birthday tax expires," Bullard said.
Still, estimated expenditure increases for the 2014-15 school year are about $1 million for health insurance and about $500,000 for step increases for certified employees to meet state required minimum salaries.
Budget projections show that, if all revenues and expenditures hold true, NCSS may have to cut about $2.5 million from the 2014-15 school year budget to maintain a minimal fund balance of nearly $4.5 million, which is about 3 percent of the budget, even though the state recommends that systems operate with a balance of 7 percent, which is nearly $10 million.
"Meanwhile, we will stay vigilant with respect to the budget going forward, as it deserves close ongoing monitoring," Mathews said. "This latest budget update is a small glimmer of good news, especially so when you contrast NCSS to the announced budget deficits going into the coming school year by other Georgia school systems, including our closest neighbors."
Mathews and his staff will work in April and May to finalize a tentative budget, according to the system's budget calendar.
The Newton County Board of Education plans to hold a special called meeting on the budget at 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 14 in the board room at the Newton County BOE building, which is located at 2109 Newton Drive NE in Covington.
The same day, the superintendent plans to present the tentative budget to the school board.
On May 21, 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 11.
From June 19 through July 16, 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 16.