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Posted: June 5, 2014 10:00 p.m.

BOE adopts 2015 budget

Even though summer just began, the people working behind the school scenes are ready for next year to begin with a full wallet, doling out more than last year to teachers and other public school employees.

The Newton County Board of Education approved its official budget for the 2014-2015 school year for all governmental funds as approved in the tentative budget last month. One change was added into the adopted budget as an addition of $200,000 in instructional expenditures to add one more hour to the six-hour-per-day elementary paraprofessional workday salaries.

The Newton County School System (NCSS) will begin the fiscal year with a projected $18,838,219 in the general fund, compared to $20,880,172 in FY 2014.

Peggy Bullard, NCSS business manager, presented the budget based on an estimated tax digest of $1.904 billion and a 20-mill millage rate. She said the Newton County commissioner is expected to release final tax digest numbers the week of June 23.

Total revenues are projected to sit at $144,512,361, which is a 5.66 percent increase from last year. Expenditures are expected to increase by 3.14 percent from last year to $145,240,113.

This increase in expenditures is attributed to an increase in employee salaries. Teachers and other NCSS personnel will receive a two percent increase in their total salary schedule, rather than the one percent, one-time pay adjustment they received last year. Eligible employees will also be given back one additional workday – three furlough days of the original six now remain -- and step increases.

During the last two meetings in May, Bullard presented four options for employee givebacks, with the final decision on Tuesday evening resting in the middle of the spectrum and on a higher salary increase than originally budgeted.
At the end of the year, the general fund balance is expected to be $18,110,467, which is 12.47 percent of the budget and more than the recommended seven percent.

The budget was approved 5-0 by council members and goes into effect July 1.

Safer school buses

School buses are expected to get an upgrade that will make them safer and more reliable.

Board members approved the $165,121 purchase of a school bus tracking and management software out of safety and efficiency concerns and “the desire to leverage technology to the greatest extent possible,” according to Michael Barr, director of support services for NCSS.

“The software should be installed and ready to use at the beginning of the upcoming 2014-2015 school year,” Barr said.
Tyler Technologies, the company selling the software, provides a comprehensive suite of products that helps those managing buses do so more effectively.

“Onscreen, the GPS fleet tracking software allows transportation staff to monitor buses in real time on a map, optimize routes, monitor schedules and respond to issues more quickly,” Barr said.

He described District Pulse, another product now available to the school system, as an information warehouse.
“It stores date from all the software components and allows administrators to develop reports and track key performance indicators,” Barr said. “The eTimekeeper component is an automated, online time clock.”

Some specific benefits of the comprehensive software products include:

• Immediate and accurate bus location information

• The ability to adjust routes based on actual route data

• Immediate access to route information, including location of stops, stop times and speed

• The ability to accurately report departure and arrival time

• On-board diagnostic monitoring, including low battery voltage, change in oil pressure and engine light indicators

• A web-based time clock to accurately track employees’ work hours

“In the event a driver falls ill, is involved in an accident or is otherwise incapacitated and are unable to identify their location to the dispatcher, administrators can quickly identify the precise location of the bus and expedite the requisite help needed,” Barr said.

Costs will be pulled from FY2015 budgeted SPLOST funds. Upon approval of the FY2016 budget, annual recurring costs for support and maintenance for software and hardware is expected to be $70,626 and will be taken from the general fund budget.

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