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NCSS employees to get pay adjustment
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Newton County School System employees will receive a pay incentive in January.

A one-time, 1 percent pay adjustment was approved by the Newton County Board of Education at its Tuesday budget work session.

School system officials said the one-time adjustment will be paid in a check separate from employees’ regular checks in January 2014. The pay adjustment, for all NCSS employees, will be funded with revenue from last year’s budget.

According to NCSS business manager Peggy Bullard, the pay adjustment will be 1 percent of each employee’s annual salary. For the average teacher, Bullard noted, the one-time check amount will be around $400.

NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey said the pay adjustment is well-deserved by the school system’s employees.

"Our employees are working hard to accomplish the goal of becoming the best school system among the best in the state, if not the best in our demographic. They come in to work when they are not scheduled to work in order to prepare classrooms," Fuhrey said.

"We also have multiple employees who work way beyond what they are scheduled to work across the school system — whether it’s in the school nutrition program, under the transportation program, business and operations. Everybody on this team is really working to the max."

Bullard said the last pay increase that NCSS employees received was in fiscal year 2008-09, a 2.5 percent increase.

Beginning in fiscal year 2009-10, employees had been furloughed as many as six workdays and no less than four workdays. Bullard said this year marks the fifth year of furlough days.

Also since fiscal year 2009-10, employees have not received the traditional step increase (an automatic pay increase built into contracts based on a teacher’s years of service).

NCSS step increases for the 2008-09 pay-scale amounted to about 3 percent each year. On the current scale, the amount varies by step, Bullard said. 

Budget projections

Also at the budget work session, Bullard presented the BOE with financial projections for the fiscal year (FY) 2013-14 through 2015-16 school years. Bullard noted that the projected numbers are not official and the BOE can decide if it wants to make adjustments to the budget.

According to a budget projections report, FY 2013-14 began with $20,880,172.

Bullard told the Board she expects the FY 2013-14 ending fund balance to be a little more than $16 million. The projected ending fund balance for FY 2014-15 is expected to be lower,  about $10 million, and for FY 2015-16, about $2 million, Bullard said. 

"We’re projecting to finish reasonably well for the next two years," Bullard said. "If you look at FY 2015-16, we know from doing these projections, we’ve been doing them for a couple of years, we know that the further we get out, the less right we are because we have so many unknowns out there. But we’ve projected this year (FY 2015-16), which doesn’t look so great …  but we don’t really know enough about it."

According to the projections report, the projected $2 million ending fund balance is about 3.6 days of operating expenses.

Bullard noted in the report that experts throughout the state recommend that a school system maintain a fund balance of at least 7 percent of its budget, which would be a little more than $10 million. She said the school system would have to cut nearly $8 million from 2015-16 expenses to meet the recommendation.

Recommendations for consideration

In addition to budget projections, future budget recommendations were discussed with the Board, which were as follows:

• That the BOE give back two furlough days in March 2014 during the regular budget cycle when more information is available about the FY 2015 budget and if the budget permits;

• Between September and October 2014, if tax dollars return higher than the budgeted percentage of 99 percent, that the BOE meet to review amendment recommendations to absorb additional funds (if warranted);

• In March 2015, during the regular budget cycle when the Board knows more about the FY 2016 budget, and if the budget permits, Fuhrey recommended giving back the final two furlough days;

• In September – October 2015, if tax dollars return higher than the budgeted percentage 99 percent, Fuhrey recommended for the Board to meet and review amendment recommendations to absorb additional funds (if warranted). Fuhrey noted in her budget recommendations, "In an effort to ensure a sufficient ending fund balance, it is important to be prudent when considering the reinstatement of items previously reduced/removed from the budget," she said. "To eliminate furlough days then only to reinstate them would not be good."

Fuhrey and Bullard noted that in the past, the budget has been based on a 95 percent rate of return taxes, which is why the school system had additional funds coming in at the close of FY 2012-13.

Therefore, projections through 2016 have been based on a 99 percent rate of return, which means that it’s not likely additional funds will come in as they did this year, officials said.