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BOE approves 2013-14 budget
No decision on Ombudsman transportation
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The Newton County Board of Education approved its 2013-14 school system budget, but transportation for alternative school Ombudsman remained a topic of discussion at the board’s Tuesday meeting.

The board unanimously voted to approve the nearly $149.5 million budget for the 2013-14 school year, which starts July 1.

The budget has a beginning fund balance of $15,628,766 and with state and local revenues, a total available sources balance of $149,493,603.

Expenditures total $139,975,257 — leaving the school system with an ending fund balance of $9,518,346.

NCSS business manager Peggy Bullard presented the May financial report to the board, reporting that tax revenues now exceed the budget by $1.7 million. Bullard said the school system would likely exceed collections by more than $2 million before the 2012-13 fiscal year is done.

She said expenditures were better than budgeted, at 89.36 percent versus 91.6 percent.

Bullard said the system expects expenditures to be a little closer to 100 percent, but the school system will come in a little under on budgeted expenditures as well.

Bullard reported the tax digest ended up being down at 5.26 percent, from the budgeted 6 percent.

However, the system still anticipates a general fund deficit of more than $2 million by the end of the 2014-15 school year with the drop in the local tax digest.

Before the 2013-14 budget was approved, the board voted unanimously to discuss student transportation to Ombudsman, Newton’s alternative school, separately at its meeting.

During Ombudsman discussions, the BOE attempted to find a solution to possibly eliminating transportation to the school.

School officials have said the estimated annual operational costs of providing transportation for 43 of the 196 students attending the Ombudsman program is $113,731.20.

Outgoing NCSS superintendent Gary Mathews reported to the board again that there have been continuous infractions while Ombudsman students have ridden the bus, some of which required law enforcement intervention.

He again told the BOE that it had two options for Ombudsman transportation.

“Either you put another adult on that bus, a monitor, and continue to provide transportation to all the students who ride there, or you discontinue that transportation altogether,” he said.

BOE member Shakila Henderson-Baker recommended moving the Oak Hill drop-off location — which had one or two students, to the Jack Neely Road location — which has more students being picked up at its location, combining the two locations. However, school officials said that would only save minimal of fuel costs.

Henderson-Baker and board member Almond Turner also suggested creating policies that would take away students’ transportation privileges if they were found fighting on the bus. But NCSS officials said there were already policies in place, and that there were different students found fighting on the bus each time.

As Mike Barr, director of support services for the NCSS, wasn’t in attendance at the meeting, school board members and officials agreed that it would be best to approve the presented budget, and amend the budget at a later date in regards to Ombudsman transportation.

The BOE voted 4 to 1 on the motion, with board member Jeff Meadors voting against, to amend the budget and continue discussions about cutting transportation at its Tuesday, July 16, combined meeting.