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School board approves 2011-2012 budget
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The Newton County School Board unanimously approved the 2011-12 budget last night; a budget that is nearly $6 million less than this year's operating budget.

The beginning fund balance (which is carried over from the 2010-11 school year) is expected to be $11,394,127 and, with local and state sources added, will likely come in at $138,630,061 for the 2011-12 school year. While that seems sufficient, with expenditures of over $131 million, it leaves an ending fund balance of just $7.4 million - and that's if there are no more cuts. If projected expenditures and revenues remain the same for the next three school years, the school system is looking at a negative $2.3 million deficit in the 2013-14 school year.

Part of the problem is that the school system has not received the millions of dollars in allotments promised by the state for several years, to the tune of $43,762,546 since 2006. The lack of these funds, along with the decline in property values in the county, has hit the system hard.

Roughly 85 percent of the system's budget is spent on salaries and health benefits (over $112 million) and more than $10 million in utilities, fuel, repairs and maintenance.

The board has already cut roughly $9 million from the coming year's budget in an attempt to keep things balanced. Sharp Learning Center has been eliminated for a different alternative program that is set to save millions and 47 teachers and 40 bus drivers have been cut.