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First Posted: 6:17 am - June 17th, 2015

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At its June 23 work session, the Thomaston-Upson Board of Education is expected to approve a 2015-2016 General Fund Budget of $33,308,605. This is an increase of $400,000 over the 2014-2015 budget.

School System Finance Director presented the proposed budget at the board’s May 26 work session, and the BOE gave approval to have the budget advertised at its June 9 meeting.

The revenue comes from two main sources, the finance director said.

“The revenues come from two sources – QBE (state-funded Quality Basic Education) and tax revenues,” she said. “ QBE funding of $21.6 million account for 68 percent of the revenue, while our local tax collection of $8.8 million accounts for 28 percent. The remaining $1.3 million, or four percent, comes from other state and local sources, for the grand total of $31,699,255.”

Governor Nathan slapped himself on the back last year by restoring some of the educational funding they had taken from public education in past years. But, Matthews said, that increase was offset in other areas.

“While the governor’s office did increase funding for education and we did see a decrease in austerity of $832,000, our district lost $519,000 in equalization funding and another $230,000 in FTE funding,” she said.

Local property tax revenue is budgeted at $8.8 million, which equates to a mill rate of 15.38 mills, and the value of 1 mill of tax will generate approximately $588,000. Matthews said they are still expecting the tax commissioner’s office to collect 100 percent of the taxes billed, based on historical trends.

Expenses are expected to be $33,308,605 for the new fiscal year, a difference of $1,609,350 that will be made up from the school system’s fund balance. At the end of the current fiscal year, the estimated fund balance will be $5,500,000. After covering the difference between revenue and expenditures in the new budget, by the end of the next fiscal year on June 30, 2016, that balance estimate will have been reduced to $3,890,650.

Matthews noted that 90 percent of the budget is made up of salaries and benefit, which comes to $29.4 million of the $33.3 million budget.

“There are 261 budgeted teaching positions, and while it may appear that we are increasing our salaries, this budget reflects three less teaching positions,” Matthews said. “Those positions that were previously paid with the GEAR grant have been added back into our general fund budget, along with any other positions that have been added recently. We’re looking at our title grants to see if we can shift any of those positions include our title grants without creating a supplanting issue in the title grants.

“The remaining 10 percent, which is $3.9 million, is made up of other operational expenses, and $1.6 million of that is fuel and energy to transport our students and utilities for our buildings.”

One area of expenses the school system is closely watching is health insurance, especially for support personnel. Matthews said they tried to build in a cushion to take care of any unexpected increases.

“On the expense side, the employer portion of the TRS rate will be increasing to 14.28 percent. The health insurance rate certified employees will remain the same at $11,340 on an annual basis. We’re uncertain about the health insurance rate for support personnel. We budgeted $150 a month for 12 months, which equates to $8,940 for the year. However, we received word in May that the rate will not be increasing until January of 2016. While we’re unsure if the rate will increase $150 for the remaining six months, we felt that we needed to leave the full 12 months in the budget, just in case the rate increased more than $150 a month, and in hopes that we have enough cushion there to absorb any increase.”

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

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