As an elected official I can go it alone and vote all day long against wasteful transportation spending, needless shoveling out of taxpayer dollars to search for a superintendent already on the payroll, and I can fight resolutions to oppose charters as well as argue against the use of employee work hours to post anti-charter propaganda on the school system website — only to be later forced down by a state AG who agrees with me — but unless a quorum is gathered together in the name of saving money, nothing I do matters.
It matters little who dislikes me along my solitary walk with defeat in opposition to waste and abuse. No one will love any of us when the money’s gone. If you wanna be loved in politics — get a dog.
Public projections of the Newton County School System budget show an ending general fund balance for fiscal year 2015 that represents 1.2 percent of the system’s total budget.
With an ending fund balance of $9,518,376 for the current fiscal year, NCSS projects a fiscal year 2015 ending fund balance of $1,881,986 — roughly three days of operating expenses. Fiscal year 2015 revenues should total $133,864,867 with expenditures of $141,501,257, which include estimated increases of $1,026,000 for health insurance and $500,000 for step increases for certified employees.
Health insurance for classified employees will increase by $150 per month per employee at a total current cost to the system of $2,052,000. We can blame Obama or Bush all day long and we can bow to the throne of “fiscal conservatism,” but it will be local decision makers holding the ball of system money management — not Washington.
Top talent left NCSS last year who told me they were too worried about our future budget to hang around. When top talent leaves, the strategic plan weakens and the sweet talk about college and career readiness becomes just that — talk.
The Legislature mandated a system cost increase of $25 per month per certified employee for health insurance beginning March of 2013, adding $165,000 to fiscal year 2013 expenses with the likelihood of an additional increase of $68 per month for fiscal year 14 and forward. The fiscal year 2015 budget includes $1,026,000 for non-certified increases in health insurance.
While agencies like SACS AdvancED and the Government Finance Officers Association recommend ending fund balance levels at 5 percent to 15 percent of system annual budgets projections show that NCSS would need to cut $2,579,879 from the fiscal year 2015 budget to maintain a balance of $4,461,865 — a mere 3 percent of the total budget and far below expert recommendations.
Should the system seek a fund balance of 7 percent, or $9,905,088, a total of $8,023,102 must be cut.
This is not new ground. In 2011 the current school board cut $8,269,688. An equally ominous task lies ahead in the current fiscal year, and dime store psychology marked by indiscernible outbursts must take a backseat to candid hard ball formulation of a healthy fund balance that adversely impacts neither classroom instruction nor students.
Taxpayers, teachers and students deserve better than the insecurity of three days of operating expenses at the end of the balance sheet, and I will work to give them better.
Jeff Meadors holds advanced degrees in education from Emory University and has served in elected and appointed positions in the field. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.