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School board reviews FY 2010 budget
Vote on tentative budget May 19
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Members of the Newton County Board of Education got their first look at the general fund budget for the next school year and with little money coming in, system administrators are trying hard to remain fiscally sound.

The 2009-2010 general fund budget for the Newton County School System is dependent on what monies come in from state and local agencies. It is the largest budget the system has, comprising salaries as well as maintenance of the schools, among other things.

"We started the budget process early in the year," explained Superintendent Dr. Steve Whatley. "We looked at our financial situation and, knowing we were on a sound basis, wanted to continue that. We saw a need to curtail some expenditures to have a sufficient ending fund balance to carry us into next year not knowing what things would look like with the state and the county."

According to the system’s Public Relations Director Sherri Viniard, members of the Newton County Board of Education will adopt the tentative budget for FY 2010 at the regular monthly meeting on May 19. According to Georgia law, the board may make changes in the tentative budget up until the time the final budget is adopted on June 16. By law the board cannot adjourn the June 16 meeting until a final budget is adopted.

According to Whatley, roughly 57 percent of the system’s revenue comes from the state and the other funds come from carry-over from the previous year and local taxation.

"We are dependent on tax dollars for our operation," Whatley said. "And we have to make certain we spend it wisely and adjust when those funds do not come in."

If all money comes in as anticipated, the system is set to receive $158,547,706. After expenditures of $149,090,406, that would leave a balance of over $9 million at the end of the 2010 school year.

The stimulus money expected by the system will be nearly $5 million, but that means that the austerity reductions the system is still receiving will be greater than what they have received in the past few years.

Austerity reductions are monies that the system earns but that the state has not given for several years to the system. The total revenue lost due to the state cuts since FY2006 is $18,236,591.

"We earn these monies but the state does not give them to us because they don’t have the money," said Whatley.

The NCSS will have 56 less employees this year than last due to cuts in teachers, financial aid advisors, media specialists, paraprofessionals, nurses and assistant principals – the largest of these cuts being with 34 less teachers.

According to Whatley, the system spends $5.36 per hour on each student enrolled in Newton County schools. About $1.76 per student each day is funded from local property taxes.

Local sources (real estate, ad valorem and intangible taxes and the beginning fund balance) comprise 40.11 percent of the budget, which amounts to $63,586,874. State sources account for 59.89 percent of the budget, which is $94,960,832. That leaves the general fund budget tentatively sitting at $158,547,706 if everything comes in as expected.

More than 87 percent of that amount goes to salaries ($130,682,492); repairs and maintenance is 4 percent ($5,995,613); utilities and fuel are 3 percent ($4,389,500); 2.7 percent is for the other category, which includes staff development, insurance, professional services and fees ($4,076,536); 1.7 percent goes to instructional textbooks and supplies ($2,587,239); and 0.9 percent is for equipment and furniture ($1,359,026),