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Mathews discusses cost of running schools
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With the beginning of budget cut discussions looming for Newton County Schools, officials are hustling to figure out how to make $9 million in reductions for the 2011-2012 school year while still keeping enough money in the budget to operate the schools every day.

According to information from Superintendent Gary Mathews, the cost of operating the school system for one day is $568,138. That includes everything in the school system, including the central office, each of the system’s 23 schools, and transportation. That adds up to $11,362,757 a month.

According to Mathews, the system will need to cut roughly $4.6 million to have a fund balance of zero at the end of the next school year. They will need to cut another $4.4 million to have an estimated $4.4 million in the fund balance at the end of 2011-2012.

"That $4.4 million will hardly cover the $11,362,757 needed to cover even one month of operation in NCSS should any unforeseen events transpire that would require us to dip into our fund balance or ‘rainy day’ account," said Mathews. "So, while I am resigned to achieving a paltry $4.4 million estimated fund balance at the end of 2011-2012, you can see that we can hardly afford to do less."

Mathews has been vocal about his concerns for the school system and the necessity of further cuts, including some to personnel, which, along with health insurance, is more than 87 percent of the system's budget.

According to a timeline released by Mathews, the board plans to allow each school council to provide budget reduction input, which will be shared with principals at a called meeting on Monday. Principals will then meet with their school councils to go over budget reduction possibilities further. A public forum will be held on Jan. 13 to gain input from the community on budget reductions.

Mathews said that he hoped to give board members a proposed list of cuts in February or March for the board to consider until April. The board is scheduled to approve a tentative budget in May.