COVINGTON -- The Newton County School System's budget expenditures may increase about 3 percent next school year.
The Newton County Board of Education got its first look at the 2013-14 school year budget at a special called meeting last week. The proposed budget is nearly $149.5 million.
Proposed revenues total nearly $133.9 million, from local and state taxes and earnings, which is up in total more than 2.5 percent. An ending fund balance of more than $15.6 million this school year also will carry over and will be used as available revenue resources; it is about 10 percent of the budget.
Peggy Bullard, business manager for NCSS, reported that property taxes are expected to drop 6 percent. Still, she is budgeting to collect 97.5 percent next school year since tax collections are up this year.
Bullard said that NCSS will receive more state funding for rising insurance costs.
Proposed expenditures total nearly $140 million, which is up more than 3 percent, and include instruction, administration, maintenance and operations, student transportation and support services. It will leave the system with more than a $9.5 million ending fund balance at the end of next school year, which is about 6 percent of the budget.
NCSS is planning to add 16.5 new positions, mostly at the Newton College and Career Academy and the new Newton High School.
Additionally, next school year, staff members will receive four furlough days instead of the current six furlough days, and some teachers may receive a step increase because the state has a minimum salary requirement, Bullard said.
At the meeting, school board members discussed cutting transportation to the Ombudsman alternative school program and adding enough nurses to cover every school or almost every school.
NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews reported that central office administrators have received information about numerous problems, at times very severe, on board the Ombudsman buses. He suggested that the board consider adding a bus monitor or provide no transportation, like many other Georgia school systems.
Each year, NCSS spends about $113,000 on transportation for 43 students at Ombudsman. Fewer than 200 students in sixth through 12th grades are enrolled in the school; other students are transported by their parents and more than 30 are on a special needs bus.
School board members also discussed adding more full time nurses, enough to staff every school, unlike now.
School board Chair Abigail Coggin said that many parents have called her asking for full time nurses, some of which were cut a few years ago during a budget shortfall. She said they are concerned that their children's medicines have been mixed up when front office staff has to handle it.
Currently, some schools share nurses.
School board members said they would consider having some schools share nurses if they are in close proximity to each other, like Porterdale Elementary School and NCCA, as well as Indian Creek Middle School and Ombudsman.
School officials reported that adding four additional nurses to have one at each school would cost about $146,000; to also have one at Ombudsman would cost about $182,500 for all. Board member Shakila Henderson-Baker also asked if an additional nurse was needed at Flint Hill Elementary School since its enrollment has increased to more than 1,200 students.
The school board plans to discuss the change in Ombudsman transportation and the addition of more school nurses at tonight's monthly meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the board room of the Newton County BOE building, located at 2109 Newton Drive NE in Covington.
The board also is expected to approve a tentative budget at tonight's meeting. The budget can change until the board approves a final budget in June, which has a meeting date set for June 25.