The Thomaston-Upson School System is looking at a proposed fiscal year 2014 General Fund budget of $31.2 million, just $396,000 over the fiscal year 2013 budget. The Board of Education got their first look at the proposed budget Tuesday night.
Kathy Matthews, Finance Director, presented the budget to the board, noting that since 2007, there have been $2.9 million in expenditure cuts in the budget, and that the system is only increasing expenditure line items for growth, instructional requirements, and critical needs.
Matthews also noted that revenue assumptions include an austerity reduction of $3 million from the state’s Quality Basic Education (QBE) Act, despite claims by Governor Nathan Deal and Republican leaders like 18th District Senator Cecil Staton that QBE was fully funded in 2014.
“The Governor’s Office reduced the austerity amount and shifted those funds into the earnings formula,” explained Matthews. “They removed all the simple office administration funds and shifted those funds into direct instruction and material earnings. As well, they changed the nursing formula, especially the elimination of the minimum amount that they give each district of $45,000. With the shift in funds, our allotment sheet still shows a $3 million shortfall. Since 2003, our austerity cuts have amounted to $19.4 million. Just imagine the educational opportunities our students and our community could have received if we had received that funding.”
Despite the austerity reduction, the school system is still expecting to receive $20.6 million from QBE, which is 68 percent of the proposed budget. Property tax millage will remain the same as last year at 15.3 mills, which is expected to generate $9 million, or 30 percent of the budget. The remaining two percent will come from other federal and state funding, other taxes, and approximately $600,000 out of the system’s fund balance.
“The difference between our projected revenues and our expenses is $600,000,” said Matthews. “We plan to take that out of our fund balance, and I’m projecting our fund balance to be around $5.5 million. With this coming off of it, we still will be slightly above board policy of 15 percent on the reserve, but it will be very close.
On the expense side, salary and benefits for school system employees account for $28 million, with health insurance costs continuing to rise.
“After salaries and benefits are taken out, we operate a very lean budget,” said Matthews. “We have about $3.2 million remaining, and about half of that is spent on fuel costs to transport our students and the utilities of our facilities.”