BOE gets first look at 2015 school budget

By Larry Stanford

February 24, 2014

The Thomaston-Upson County Board of Education got its first look at the preliminary 2015 budget at its meeting on February 11. Revenues are projected to be at $30.9 million, expenditures at $32.7 million, with a budget shortfall of $1.8 million.

Kathy Matthews, Finance Director, stated that they are projecting state funding of $20,989,000 based on a known increase in T & E (Training and Experience), and teacher retirement going up, and basing it on the number of teachers that the state funds.

“It does not include any possible increases that the governor has already mentioned in the media that we may be seeing coming through,” Matthews said. “We probably won’t see any definite numbers from the governor’s office until last April, early May on our 2015 numbers. We’ll get our mid-term allotment sheet for 2014 sometime in March.”

Combined with other state and federal funds, local funding, interest, and other taxes, but not counting property tax, the total revenue is projected to be $21,854,439.

“For property tax, we basically used the same property values that we had last year, same millage rate, and the value of one mill, which is $602,933,” said Matthews. Minus the collection fee the school system pays the county to collect the tax, that adds up to be $9,017,767, bringing the total currently projected revenue to $30,872,206.

Expenditures are projected to be $32,720,657. Matthews reminded the board that when comparing 2015 numbers to 2014, to remember that the board approved five furlough days in 2014, but no furlough days have been included in the 2015 budget. Any days added would reduce the expenditures in 2015.

Matthews added that since the 2014 budget was approved, several teachers have had their pay bumped up due to receiving advanced degrees.

“We’ve had 10 certified teachers who have obtained advanced degrees,” she said. “This amounts to an increase of between $5,000 and $6,000 a year for each of those certified positions.

“In 2015, a good number of our teachers are increasing on the state salary scale,” Matthews added. “The teachers who we know who are currently retiring, we’ve left those positions in, not knowing what the principals are going to need at the schools in regards to class sizes. Once the principals have made those decisions, if we need to take out some retiree positions, then we’ll do so at that time.

“As I mentioned earlier, teacher retirement is increasing from 12.28 percent to 13.15 percent for 2015. That increase is reflected in the benefit line item.

“As far as we know, there is not going to be an increase in the employer insurance rate for 2015. The certified employees cost us $11,340 a year, which is $945 a month. The classified employees cost us $7,154, or $596.20 a month. Hopefully the state will hold true to that and there won’t be an increase. That cost is on the employer’s side, not the employee side. We don’t know what next November is going to bring, as far as employees, but hopefully the state will hold true to their word for the employer.”

Matthews noted that there will be some anticipated funding issues regarding the system’s IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) Special Education grant and Title grant.

“The amount of the impact we’re not sure, but for our IDEA Special Education grant, there are 28 Special Education Parapros, and there is not going to be enough funding in that grant to cover all of those Parapros’ salaries. The general fund will have to absorb some amount,” Matthews said.

“In our Title grant, there is the potential of two teachers that the grant will not be able to cover. Once we’ve received our numbers from the state, and the directors work on those budgets, then we’ll know how much general fund is going to have to pick up.”

Matthews concluded her presentation to the board by stating that the system has left all other operating expenses flat at the moment.

“We just budgeted the same amount we had for last year, but we know that we’re going to have to have some increases in some areas,” she said. “The next draft we’ll have to do will reflect what we think those amounts will have to be. That gives you some general idea of where we are today. As you know, this is a moving target and once we get new numbers, we go back and revise.”

Larry Stanford may be reached at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @LarryStanford7.