“I’ll be honest with you, this is kind of a dismal picture as we begin to look at how much longer can we go budgeting deficits,” said Bartow County Schools Chief Financial Officer Todd Hooper. “We have to begin thinking about how we view education in Bartow County over the next, probably, really the next seven months if we take this budget on and we go into the next budget year.”
The tentative budget approved by the board Monday projects FY14 revenue at $101.5 million, about $6 million less than the $107.5 million projected for expenses. The beginning fund balance going into the year is projected at $15.5 million, which would end FY14 at $9.5 million if the projected deficit is incurred.
“One of the policies we have in place is to endure to maintain a fund balance of 10 percent. If we’d done that, our fund balance would be approximately $10.7 million,” Hooper said. “Again, that’s not an in-fact, but it is something that we endeavor to endure, is to maintain that.
“I remind you that it is a tentative budget, meaning we put it out there for your inspection, for your thoughts and for the community as well. ... Depending on conversations and input, we would try to adopt the budget on our regular Monday, June 17, board meeting. That provides us almost a month for everybody to look at it, think this over.”
While revenue continues to decline from local, state and federal sources, incurred expenses are increasing at an even great pace. A major factor in increased expenses has been seen in employee insurance. Hooper noted that health insurance for classified employees has been rising at an average rate of about $150 a month per employee and is projected to increase another $1,800 per employee in FY14.
Hooper laid out other examples of changes occurring in revenues and expenses compared to the system’s 2009 budget. In 2009, Bartow County Schools saw a balanced budget of $122.9 million and have since experienced a 17 percent drop in revenue and a 12.5 percent decrease in expenditures. Also, the fund balance was at $25 million.
The dwindling fund balance was stressed by Hooper as an issue of top priority as the projected 2014 budget falls below the 10 percent guideline. While Bartow County Schools have yet to increase millage rates, Hooper added that options are limited to make up the current projected deficit.
“Out of $170.5 million in expenses, $95.4 million is salary and benefits,” Hooper said. “So when you start to look and say, ‘How can I make up $6 million?’ There’s only $12 million of energy, gas, consumables and supplies in there. Quite obviously, to cover that gap it’s impossible to do it from cutting stuff. I say that to kind of lay the line out that, obviously if our fund balance goes to $9.5 million, we won’t be able to continue operating the way we have in the past.”
Also on the agenda Monday was a tabled item originally brought forth by Boardmember Matt Schultz about timely dissemination of agendas to the public and the media. Monday, Schultz used the FY14 budget as an example due to its addition to Monday’s agenda on Friday afternoon.
“I’m not even sure if this copy of the tentative budget made it on the website,” Schultz said. “So I really don’t know why we would postpone this [agenda item.]
“Today is a perfect example, we have a change that we received on Friday to the agenda and this information isn’t made public to the media, to our constituents, honestly even as a board we haven’t seen this information until we showed up today.”
The first reading of Schultz’s proposed board
policy ammendment was defeated at Monday’s meeting in a 4-1 vote.
Superintendent John Harper explained that additional information had come in last week and the budget was placed on Monday’s agenda in order to give time for review and input before the June 30 deadline for approval.
“There certainly has been some delay in getting some information to you,”Harper said. “We’ve been waiting on some specific information to direct us with the budget, particularly with revenues and expenditures. Todd Hooper and I worked on the budget as late as yesterday to make sure we had good, accurate numbers for you.”
Before the meeting adjourned, Harper again addressed the board regarding the proposed budget, describing it as “tentative” and “a working document,” before encouraging the board’s feedback as they review it.
The board also approved Monday the sale of the former Cloverleaf Elementary on Felton Road. Boardmember Fred Kittle made a point to confirm that funds from the sale of real estate could be used at the superintendent’s discretion and Hooper added that the board’s approval on this matter will be a boon to the system’s budget.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the board approved a list of items on the consent agenda. The items include:
• First reading of changes to board policy regarding personnel vacations.
• First reading of board policy addition regarding awarding units and transferring credit.
• First reading of changes to board policy regarding professional personnel reemployment.
• School nutrition services web-based meal application processing option.
• Student paid breakfast and lunch price increase.
• Adult breakfast and lunch price increase.
• Recommendation for renewal of pizza bid.
• Construction contingencies for the new band room at South Central Middle School.
• Construction contingencies for renovations at the Bartow Learning Center.
• Rehab and education collaborative agreement.
• Surplus/sell and destroy/scrap school buses from current fleet.
• Purchase supplies/equipment for science department at the new Adairsville Middle School.
• HP network switches for SRG2 Cohort Schools.
• HP switches for new Adairsville Middle School.
• Purchase and installation of interactive projectors.
• Surplus of greenhouses at the learning center and old Adairsville Middle School.