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NCSS approves tentative $145M budget
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The Newton County School Board unanimously approved the tentative budget for the 2012-13 school year Tuesday. At more than $145 million, the budget is almost 3 percent higher than last year's.

The increase in budget expenditures comes largely from the increase in state retirement and health benefits, an increase in transportation costs (including gas) and additions to the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett and the Newton College and Career Academy.

Additionally, the move to a three-tiered transportation system in the 2011-12 school year did not save as much money as initially expected because any savings were lost in the cost of gas, the increase in retirement and benefits and the extra hours bus drivers had to work.

In the budget proposition, the expenditures for bus driver's increase to $478,231, an estimation based on what was spent this year.

According to Deputy Superintendent for Operations Dennis Carpenter, the hope is that bus routes will be more efficient in the coming school year, which will increase savings to the NCSS.

The board also heard a short presentation from Carpenter, at the prior request from Chairman Eddie Johnson, about what difference an increase in class size would make. While it did show that increasing class size by one student could save roughly $2 million, it would also eliminate 41 teachers in elementary and middle schools and roughly $300,000 at the high school level. An increase of two students could save $3 million but would cost 60 teachers throughout the county.

The approved tentative budget currently sits at $145,412,382 with expenditures of $135,349,243 and $10,063,139 in reserves.

Although approved, the budget is still subject to discussion and change until June 19 when the board is scheduled to adopt the final budget.