The Board of Education is preparing to vote on the school budget for the 2008-2009 school year, which is proposed to increase by five percent, down from a 10 percent increase last year.
"This is really a lean budget, we have downsized wherever possible," said Financial Advisor Melanie James. "We based this Fiscal Year 2009 budget on current year projections...We go to each category and base it on current-year expenditures. Some we leave alone and some we do a slight increase."
Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer said the budget predicts the district’s needs based on many factors and input from all school employees, but has continued to receive less help from the state.
"Like other Georgia systems, Bryan County has had shrinking state resources," Brewer said. "With this budget, the state has now withheld over $5.2 million of funding. In addition, we have lost almost $2 million (in the budget for FY09). Because of rising property tax values, Bryan County is now ranked as a wealthier system with the result that we receive less in state equalization funding."
The district’s total estimated revenue for the upcoming year is $47.1 million, which is an increase of about $2.5 million, or 5.5 percent. This includes local, state and federal funding. In the proposed expenditure budget, James said there will be a five percent increase to $53 million, versus a 10 percent increase last year.
While the current FY08 budget is projected to be under spent, James said the district is still looking at a $2 million deficit in expenditures from this year.
"The bottom line is, we should have $8.4 million at the end of this year in general funds and we started with $10.4 million," she said.
James said based on the projected revenue and expenditures for FY09, she expects this to happen again. That means by July 1, 2009, the general funds is projected to be around $2 million.
"We have readjusted a lot based on our spending," James said. "We haven’t raised taxes in seven years. Some of the cuts we did for this upcoming year, we feel really good about them, because we over-estimated this past year."
But James said she doesn’t see that happening again in FY10.
"Next year, we might have to make some tough decisions," she said. "If we don’t collect any more monies than we budgeted, we can’t maintain at this level. I don’t think you can make enough cuts to make up the difference."
Brewer and several board members expressed concern about the economy and the fact that the local community can’t bear a school tax increase.
James said the first place cuts can be made is in maintenance and transportation – but those areas of the budget were already slimmed down for FY09.
Chairman Eddie Warren asked about the $2.75 million proposed for capital projects, and whether or not that could be moved back into the budget if necessary.
"We might not be able to afford to move that amount this year," Brewer said, noting board action can vote to move the money from capital projects back into the budget when necessary.
James noted just because its budgeted doesn’t mean it has to be spent.
"It’s a huge accomplishment that you’ve been able to do that much, most districts aren’t able to," she said. "Depending on how we’re spending money and what’s happening with gas as time goes on, that number can change."
In capital projects, the new Richmond Hill Middle School project is already looking to be a few million dollars more than anticipated. Board member Joe Pacenka suggested looking at that as a possible area where more money can be saved, instead of spent.
Brewer said the project cost is still just an estimate and will be funded entirely, or almost entirely, with SPLOST funds and the first draft of the project is currently being created. She said a number of drafts will be created before the construction project is bid out.
The final approval for the budget will be done at the June 26 board meeting.
Here’s how the budget is being broken down:
- The district is increasing instruction salaries from $31.9 million to $34 million, or about a six percent increase. James said it was a 10 percent increase last year. Instructional operations went up about $2 million for expenses like a new contract for the rental of copy machines throughout the district, new textbooks for science and math and new computer software, among other things.
- In pupil service expenditures, salaries for positions like a new nurse, psychologists, physical and occupational therapists, athletics, etc., increased by $957,900 to $1.1 million, or four percent.
- Instructional support expenditures include salaries for professional learning and curriculum development, such as graduation specialists, curriculum resource teachers, etc. is an increase of $1.2 million or 10 percent. In operations, the travel budget increased by almost $30,000 because mileage costs increased by four percent per mile.
- In media services, there was a seven percent increase for paraprofessionals and specialists, but operations decreased about $3,000 because schools budgeted for less this year.
- In general administration, there was a 2.5 percent decrease in total expenditures, from about $562,000 to $548,978.
- In school administration, there are five new clerical staff positions at the Richmond Hill schools to accommodate growth and another part time assistant principal at RHHS. There was an increase of about $300,000 for these additional positions.
- In business support, there was an eight percent increase in expenditures but a 1.5 percent decrease in operation costs for a total budget of about $405,000, up from $394,000 last year.
- In maintenance and operations, salaries for maintenance staff, custodians and administration went up by 1.5 percent. In expenditures, communication went down because of a better cell phone contract and travel went down because they cut one of the two traveling positions. Fire-monitoring services were also reduced, based on insurance requirements. The total operational costs went up less than one percent.