Around this time each year the board of education (BOE) reviews and, if appropriate, adjusts the Newton County School System’s (NCSS) annual budget. According to Samantha Fuhrey, NCSS superintendent, only a few Georgia school boards do such mid-year reviews and adjustments.
Tuesday night, the BOE reviewed its 2016-2017 revenue projections, considered four options for amending its budget and approved one of those options. It was able to do so because state and local tax revenues continue to recover following the recent recession and because the NCSS has a fund balance, or reserve, of $29.7 million.
The amended 2016-2017 budget will now include one-time funding for a 1-percent pay increase for all employees (total cost of $1.05 million); additional summer programming ($300,000); science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives ($100,000); literacy and math programming ($100,000); and replacement of the restroom and concession buildings serving the Alcovy High School outdoor facilities ($350,000).
Budget increases were also approved to support current-year costs for new on-going expense items. Specifically, the BOE added $370,000 to this year’s budget to fund a 0.5 percent 403B contribution increase for employees in the Georgia Teachers Retirement System. It also added $230,000 to fund two new positions and a bus inspection contract. The two new positions are for a response-to-intervention/gifted coordinator and for a Pupil Transportation Department lead mechanic.
The BOE acted quickly to use its new budget line for bus inspection services. In a separate action Tuesday, it awarded a contract for bus inspection to Morgan Fleet Services, Inc., of Monroe. Total cost for the one-year contract is estimated at $103,950. The Pupil Transportation Department operates 210 buses which are on average 11-years-old.
“Most of the cuts during the course of the recession have had to come from employee pay and benefits and so it is appropriate to use these funds to begin first by restoring pay to employees,” Fuhrey said. “Also, in keeping with our plan for increased student achievement, it is necessary to offer summer programming, STEM initiatives and literacy and math programming to our students.”
Since 2014, a total of $19.3 million has been added to the NCSS budget with most of that going to support student learning and restore employee salary and benefits. Last night’s adjustments will add to this total.
Education foundation awards grants
Also at Tuesday’s BOE meeting, the Newton Education Foundation awarded three mini-grants to fund teaching innovations within the NCSS.
Ken Meakins, physical education instructor for Porterdale Elementary School, received a grant for aerobic steps. He will use them to teach students about cardiovascular endurance.
A grant to Heather Hodge, Middle Ridge Elementary’s teacher of the year, will fund the additional equipment needed to use a three dimensional printer purchased with a previous grant. Fourth and fifth grade students will use the equipment and printer to build a geometrically accurate city. The grant will also support field trips to a cooperating Atlanta architectural firm so students can observe the real-world applications of what they are doing in class.
A third grant was awarded to Katie Sauls and Elizabeth Rogers, first grade teachers at Newton County Theme School at Ficquett (NCTS). The funds will be used to install a chicken coop. Students will learn about chickens, their life cycle and husbandry, and egg production.
Allison Jordan, director of testing, research and evaluation for the NCSS, presented the spring testing schedule for third through eighth grades to the BOE.
The Georgia Milestones Assessment System’s End of Grade (EOG) tests will be administered during the week of April 17 to 21. Given the problems experienced with the online version of this test, the NCSS has decided to administer only the paper version next spring.
During the first two weeks of May, the Iowa Assessments will be administered. These tests were also administered this fall. By comparing fall and spring scores, the NCSS will be able to measure each student’s progress.
Because the NCSS has stopped administering a few different tests it had used in previous years, the total number of hours devoted to testing will be less this year compared to last year. The EOG takes 10 to 21 hours per student. The Iowa Assessments takes 3.5 to 4.5 hours per student.
The BOE also approved the following:
- Purchase of $99,220 worth of computers and support equipment from Dell Marketing, Round Rock, Texas for Fairview, Flint Hills, and Middle Ridge elementary schools.
- Purchase of $306,538 worth of phone system upgrades from Infinity Network Solutions, Macon, Georgia for Livingston and South Salem elementary schools; Indian Creek, Cousins, and Clements middle schools; as well as for the NCSS central office and the Palmer Stone facility.
- Renewal of the annual beverage contract with Coca-Cola Refreshments, Decatur, Georgia.
- Disposal of surplus equipment and property.
- Use of facilities as follows: rented four classrooms at Palmer Stone to Oxford College of Emory University for storage; waived the rental fee for use of the school cafeteria at NCTS by the Newton County Ministers Union for its Annual Community Thanksgiving Meal; and authorized the use of athletic facilities at multiple schools by the Newton County Recreation Commission, an NCSS partner.
- The BOE’s state and Federal legislative priorities for the 2017 fiscal year.