While the county school system is holding its own financially right now, interim superintendent Dr. Allen McCannon painted a grave picture for it over the next two years, if the economy does not improve.
McCannon told the school board Aug. 10 that Georgia financial experts believe all school systems will receive a five-percent budget cut from the state next year, which would be equivalent to $1.3 million (about two mills) cut for the county school system.
He noted that the state has cut almost $11 million from the county’s school funding since 2002 (a total of $4.5 billion statewide).
He said that of the 180 school systems in the state, 30 are expected to be bankrupt by the end of this school year.
Adding to the woes, federal stimulus funds will also go away after this school year.
“And without them (stimulus funds) many financial experts believe the next two years will be worse than what we have already seen,” he noted.
He explained that if nothing else changes, that without the stimulus funding, Madison County will start the 2012 budget cycle looking for $837,000 in local revenues or cuts to school programs.
The adopted budget for FY2011 approves utilizing $1 million of the system’s $4.4 million fund balance to cover the $37,743,300 budget, reducing the fund balance from 12 percent to only 8.9 percent of the 2011 budget, which McCannon said is below the 10 percent financial advisors recommend.
“I feel good right now at the shape we’re in, but if the trend continues, we’re gonna be like other systems — eventually we’ll be in trouble,” McCannon said.
SCHOOL YEAR OFF TO SMOOTH START
School officials told the BOE Aug. 10 that the school year had gotten off to a smooth start, with enrollment “about 100 students below projections,” which assistant superintendent Bonnie Knight said was typical for the start of school, and that students were continuing to register this week. As of Monday, there were a total of 4,766 students countywide.
BOARD INSURANCE AMENDMENT
The board agreed to amend the insurance portion of its board member compensation and expenses policy Aug. 10, following the revelation of BOE chairman Jim Patton’s $13,000 debt for his own delinquent insurance premiums through the school system.
Patton began paying back the overdue premiums to the school system after the delinquency was cited in the 2009 audit.
The new policy reads that: board members must pay employee share to the payroll department by the tenth of each month; that if a board member becomes one month behind in premium payments, their insurance will be cancelled; and that each year, at the time of renewal, all outstanding balances will be due or a board member will not be able to renew their insurance coverage.
In another matter, the board approved Dr. Sherry Gibnay-Sherman as acting assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction this school year. Dr. McCannon said Sherman has been serving as a consultant to the school system and has agreed to assume the new position.
“She’s a natural fit for this position,” McCannon said. “I feel very fortunate to have her.”
McCannon said it is not always easy to have someone come in to fill a position who is already comfortable with and works well with the staff.
NO TAX RATE INCREASE
The BOE unanimously approved its mill rate for next year with no tax increase. The mill rate for the general fund stands at 16.99, while the bond debt service mill rate remains at .826.
The board heard that SPLOST funding was down slightly last month (approximately $4,000) from July 2009.
The BOE heard that money from fines implemented during the last school year to discourage cell phone use during school hours among high school students has been used to purchase video equipment for a school broadcast team. Knight told the board that $1,100 in fines had been collected over the past school year and that those funds had been applied to the $1,300 tab for the video equipment.