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BoE passes temporary spending plan
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Clarification: Superintendent John Oliver isn't getting a raise, according to Chief Finance Officer Melanie James. Under the projected 2011 fiscal year budget discussed at Thursday's school board meeting, the compensation for the superintendent was listed at $148,523, up from $139,452 in FY 2010.

The reason for the increase: the 2010 number was buyout compensation for former superintendent Sallie Brewer and did not include benefits, according to James. The $148,523 figure listed in the projected budget for the 2011 fiscal year includes benefits such as insurance and retirement for Oliver, who was appointed superintendent in January after serving roughly 10 months as an interim superinentendent.

We regret the confusion.  

Last year’s budget process for the Bryan County School system didn’t exactly go smoothly, in part because administrators had to work around state funding numbers that kept shrinking.  
It might be déjà vu all over again.
With only days left in the school system’s 2010 fiscal year, the Bryan County Board of Education passed Thursday a spending resolution to keep the system operating.
The reason? The state hasn’t told the BoE how much funding it will get.
 “We don’t have the final numbers from the state, so the spending resolution allows us to keep things going until we adopt a budget,” said BoE chairman Eddie Warren. “We don’t want to go out there with blinders on and adopt a budget that we may have to turn around and change because their projections were off.”
The school system’s 2011 fiscal year starts July 1, and the state generally provides more than half the system’s funding – in FY2010 state funds accounted for 56 percent, according to Melanie James, the schools chief financial officer.
She expects to know more by mid July. And she expects more state cuts when the new numbers come out – as much as 3 percent, she said Friday.
In the meantime, BoE members went over a proposed expenditure budget of $49.07 million during a called meeting Thursday afternoon. That is more than $300,000 leaner than the $49.45 million budget passed in FY 2010, despite the anticipation that the school population will grow by an additional 4 percent, or from about 7,200 students to around 7,500.
Among the highlights:
-    Revenue from local ad valorem taxes is expected to drop in FY 2011, from $19,692,655 to $19,652,540. The tax digest declined slightly, but Medicaid reimbursements and interest on investments also dropped.
-    No millage rate increase is in the works. The BoE hiked its millage rate 2 mills last year.
-    Salaries make up more than 84 percent of the projected budget. Topping the list is superintendent John Oliver, whose total compensation will be $148,523.
-    Salaries for all teachers increased by more than $380,000, and no teacher furloughs are in the projected budget.
-    The school system’s share of the 4-H program is funded.
-    Among the costlier items in the proposed budget: More than $33.7 million will be spent on instruction, followed by $4.6 million on maintenance and operation and $2.1 million on student transportation.
-    Cuts were made in a number of areas ranging from instructional support services to general administration.
-    Last year Bryan County Schools got $1.7 million in stimulus money from the federal government. That drops to $529,064 in FY 2011. It goes away completely in FY 2012, officials say.
-    The school system expects to again end the year with about $6 million in its fund balance. That money helps cover payroll and unexpected expenses while waiting on tax revenues, officials say.

While the numbers were preliminary, James told officials that to date Bryan County schools alone have lost more than $16.3 million in state funding since 2003.
School systems are funded based in large part on student population, but the cuts have come while the district has grown at an average of about 5 percent annually.
“It’s like you worked 40 hours a week and only got paid for 30 hours,” James said. “We earned $16.3 million that we didn’t receive.”
BoE District 1 member Mary Warnell noted that less state money hasn’t meant less state requirements.
“We’re still required to everything we have done and follow all the rules and regulations, just do it with less money,” she said.

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