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School system reviews draft 2017-2018 budget
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At an April 25 special called meeting, Newton County School System (NCSS) Board of Education (BOE) members and administrators reviewed an early draft of the NCSS’s tentative budget for 2017-2018. The tentative budget now will be finalized and acted on at the BOE’s May 9 meeting. Whatever version is approved will be published in The Covington News, the legal organ of Newton County, and thus made available for public review and comment.

The draft which was reviewed Tuesday night, projects next year’s total general fund revenues to be just under $165.8 million with about $122.5 million expected to come from state sources and $43.3 million from local sources.  The NCSS anticipates getting $3.1 million more from state sources and $1.8 million more from local sources than was received from these same sources in 2016-2017.

The additional contribution from local sources is expected to come from increased assessed valuation of property within Newton County. The mileage rate of $20 per thousand cannot be increased and the draft tentative budget is built around that rate.

Total general fund expenditures for 2017-2018 are projected to be $173.8 million with the difference between projected revenues and expenses coming out of the NCSS’s fund balance. The fund balance, or reserve, held by the NCSS will be around $22.9 million by the end of June. The recommended fund balance is $12.1 million. If the draft budget is adopted, it would require a $7.9 million drawdown of the NCSS’s fund balance, reducing it to about $15.0 million.

In the draft budget, total expenditures are projected to be about $6 million more than in 2016-2017. Anticipated significant new costs include projected pay and benefit increases for teachers and staff members, increased health insurance premiums, and science textbook replacement.

Because the BOE was looking at an early draft, all of the numbers above are subject to change depending on recommendations made by the NCSS administration and decisions made by the BOE.

In presenting the draft general fund budget for 2017-2018, Erica Robinson, executive financial manager, shared a few facts. Education is a labor-intensive enterprise; 87.26 percent of 2017-2018 general fund expenditures are projected to support salaries and benefits. Also, based on the latest numbers available for comparison purposes, NCSS spends a higher percentage of its budget on instruction and a lower percentage on general and school administration as compared to statewide averages for all Georgia school districts.

The BOE also reviewed a draft 2017-2018 capital projects budget. That budget projects expenditures totaling $10.6 million for debt service as well as various facilities and infrastructure improvements, all to be paid for with proceeds from the NCSS’s current special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST). Samantha Fuhrey, superintendent, reported that the current SPLOST ends December 2018 and it will soon be time to start the process for developing a new SPLOST request which would go to the voters as a referendum in March 2018.

Regular BOE meeting

Following the special called meeting to review the draft tentative budget for 2017-2018, the BOE held a regular meeting.

Special recognition was given to students selected for the 2017 Governor’s Honors Program and for the 2017 All-State Band as well as to students who earned awards at the Northeast Georgia Regional Social Studies Fair. 

The BOE tabled two recommendations for policy revisions; one pertaining to student promotion and retention and the other to student wellness policies. These proposals will be acted on at future meetings.

The BOE approved revisions to the elementary and secondary handbooks, two contracts, disposal of surplus property, purchase of computers and associated equipment, as well as numerous personnel changes.

An annual contract was awarded to Genuine Parts Company, doing business as NAPA Auto Parts, for “truck, bus, equipment parts, related supplies and services, as well as the provision of Integrated Business Solutions” (IBS). Per the contract, NAPA IBS will operate a parts store within the NCSS’s pupil transportation department. The contract is valued at just under $1.4 million.

A contract was for plumbing renovations at East Newton Elementary School was awarded to Mid Atlantic Renovations, Inc. The contract is valued at $38,995.

Two separate purchases of computers and associated equipment were approved. One was for $228,125 worth of equipment from ByteSpeed, LLC, Moorhead, Minnesota; the other was for $56,754 worth of laptop equipment from Dell Marketing L.P., Round Rock, Texas.

Finally, the BOE approved one rescinded resignation, four new hires, one transfer, and two terminations for the current academic year.  It also accepted four retirements and 46 resignations of current teachers and staff members. For next year, the BOE approved the hiring of 17 teachers and five people to staff the NCSS’s new alternative education academy as well as 20 transfers.