The Bartow County Board of Education’s finance department is remaining optimistic about its upcoming annual audit, says Chief Financial Advisor Todd Hooper. The results of the audit should be available in spring 2014.
“Auditors are scheduled to begin their on-site work during the next two weeks, so again, our staff will be carted off to deal with auditors ...,” Hooper said during Monday’s work session. “We’ve had good audits, and last year, we had an audit with no findings. Again, we’ve had continuity with our staff and I expect a good audit reporting this year.”
He continued, “... I would expect over the course of the next two months, we will adjust our budget to reflect the number of people we actually hired so that the budget will again reflect the reality versus what we projected initially. As we get out into December, I think you’ll see that beginning to show up.”
In other school budget news, Hooper said the enrollment process for the state health benefit plan began Monday. Over the past month, he said, the finance department met with school employees to explain health care changes under the Affordable Care Act as well as to answer any questions from employees.
“We had a good meeting with each one of the schools and their staff. There were a lot of questions asked and certainly as we got to the end ..., we did our final four meetings in each of the four corners of the county and we had a good presentation ... explaining the benefits, taking questions. And this year, as was requested, we visited each one of the schools so each employee had a fair share to be able to ask questions because the state health benefit plan is undergoing major changes,” Hooper said.
The system also is looking at how it will be able to utilize its federal funding along with Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax revenue, the later of which has been affected negatively since the explosion at Plant Bowen. On April 4, the explosion took place just before 4 p.m. inside the Plant Bowen powerhouse on the Unit 2 generator as it was being taken offline for scheduled maintenance. The blast tore metal panels from the powerhouse walls leaving a gaping hole visible from Covered Bridge Road.
Hooper said while the plant is not operating at full capacity, an improving economy may help offset the revenue lost due to the explosion.
“Here in the last month we’ve began to enter in federal budgets as they slowly come in and become approved. We should begin to start drawing down funds beginning at the end of this month so that we will begin to operate those programs on local funding. Also, during the next few weeks, we will begin to take in the largest portion of our local tax revenue,” Hooper said. “As we do that, we try to rebalance our portfolio of our investments and ladder those in such a way that they are timed for three-, six-, nine- and 12-month maturities so that we can maximize our return on our investments ...
“Obviously SPLOST taxes a hit whenever Plant Bowen isn’t at full capacity. If the economy continues to improve, you will see our SPLOST tends to flatten out or decrease a little bit because obviously gas tanks can be filled up and driven down to Cobb County. As well, we have the new outlet mall in Woodstock, so we may experience some of that [revenue], but right now I believe our numbers are around $1,000,243 a month, which is down from two years ago. But, at the same point in time, it’s holding steady with what we anticipate and project out to meet our collections for our debt service.”