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BOE approves tentative FY 2009 budget
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 The Newton County Board of Education approved the operating budget for fiscal year 2009 at Tuesday's regular monthly meeting.

 Superintendent Steve Whatley presented the budget at last week's work session and the board met for several private work sessions to discuss the numbers before Wednesday's vote.

 Whatley said the budget is merely a working document and can be changed until its adoption in June.

Three public hearing reviewing the budget are scheduled in June with the first on at 6:45 p.m. June 10 and two on June 17 at 9 a.m. and 6:45 p.m.

The budget calls for a projected resource amount of approximately $162 million with projected expenditures tabbed at approximately $151 million.

The Newton County school system is currently on pace to finish the year in the black according to the administrative services report. With 83 percent of the year complete, total revenues stand at 84 percent while expenditure hover around 79.

Whatley said if the system stays on track to meet their budget goals for 2008, the county would start with a beginning fund balance of just over $10.5 million.

As with 2008, next year's budget reflects a majority of funds allocated for salaries and benefits. Approximately 87 percent of the budget, or roughly $131.5 million, will go toward salaries and benefits.

With a projected minimum enrollment in all county schools of 19,472, the hourly cost per student breaks down to $5.53 per pupil.

Whatley said the millage rate of 18.21 for maintenance and operations and 1.0 for debt services will remain unchanged for the fourth consecutive year, but was quick to point out the state Quality Basic Education funding came up short yet again. The QBE allotment fell short by $1,027,123 adding to what the county estimates is a total revenue loss due to state austerity cuts exceeding $20 million.

"As the state experienced revenue reductions, they passed those reductions along to the school systems," Whatley said in his presentation. "Our first cut in what we were allocated, but did not receive from the state, was in FY 2002.

"Over that period of years, the school system has not received $20 million that the school district earned to operate the school system and I think that's an important point to remember and one that we stress to our legislators each year."

Whatley added he hopes the state eliminates the formula adjustments in the QBE allotment and would like to see the state pay back some of the shorted funds.

A quick look at the 2008 expenditures compared to 2009 budgeted amount reveals an increase in overall spending of $6,294,836 or 4.35 percent.

If the numbers hold true, the county expects to receive $65,316,567 from local sources or approximately 40 percent with the remaining 60 percent coming from the state.

The 2008 fiscal year ends June 30 at which time the county will adopt and begin operating under the new budget.