Concerned that the school system may soon have to actually start dipping into its reserves to operate, members of the county budget committee are asking the school board to keep spending next year down to this year's levels.
By a vote of 4-1 Thursday night, the committee turned down the Board of Education's 2014-15 budget request and asked that proposed spending be cut by $331,469 to keep total expenditures next year at the same level as this year.
Members of the county budget committee are Wayne Cantrell, Rick Cantrell, Jerry Adcock (alternate), Jerry Scott, and Marshall Ferrell. Larry Summers was absent. All voted to reject the proposed school budget except Ferrell."I just feel like we've had this thing (budget) too short a time tonight to know how much to cut," said Ferrell.
The budget committee's action means that total spending for schools is to remain at $20,576,347 for 2014-15. The school board had asked to spend $20,907,816.
Total local revenues for schools will be $4,037,739 for 2014-15, an increase of $25,649. The rest of school funds are derived from State BEP and federal sources.
During a special meeting on the budget, the Board of Education last Tuesday voted 4-3 (with board members Billy Miller, W.J. "Dub" Evins, III, and Johnny Lattimore voting against it) to request that the county adopt a spending plan totaling $20,907,816 in expenditures with total revenues at $19,233,260. To make up the difference , the school board asked that a total of $1,674,556 in available Technology and BEP cash reserves and unassigned monies from the fund balance be budgeted to meet expenses in balancing the budget. Although the school system is not seeking a tax hike, the $1.6 million in reserves proposed for school operation in next year's budget is equivalent to almost an additional 39 cents on the property tax rate, if it had to be funded that way.
County budget committee members are concerned that if reserves are used and eventually depleted, a large tax increase for schools could be coming in the future. "What worries me is going into the reserves by that much money ($1.6 million). Sooner or later that's going to bite us if they keep doing that," said county budget committee member Wayne Cantrell.
While the school system normally anticipates having to use some reserves to balance its budget each year, it has not yet had to do so. Last year (2012-13), the district projected a deficit but actually ended up around $300,000 in the black by the end of the fiscal year. However this year (2013-14), school officials are projecting a shortfall of possibly more than $500,000 by June 30, 2014.
Three weeks ago, the Board of Education submitted its original tentative spending plan for next year but the county budget committee rejected it because it was $273,000 out of balance and would have required a six to seven cent property tax increase. After last Tuesday's meeting, the school board had cut the request for additional local funding down to $29,285.
The proposed budget still includes funding for a new second grade teacher as well as an English teacher, Chemistry teacher, and a part time English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at DCHS.
A total of $20,330 is budgeted for additional supplements including two DCHS assistant soccer coaches (one for the girls team and one for the boys team) totaling $5,570; two assistant DeKalb Middle School soccer coaches ($2,790), a DeKalb Middle School assistant basketball coach ($1,395), a DeKalb Middle School/West School Cross Country Coach and a DCHS Cross Country coach (2 positions totaling $5,000), an assistant DeKalb West School basketball coach ($1,395), an assistant DeKalb West Baseball coach ($1,395); and an assistant high school football coach ($2,785). The original plan included $5,000 for an Athletic Director and $2,500 for DeKalb West School to have its own Cross Country Coach but those supplements were cut from the budget. The board decided to create one Cross Country program for the DeKalb West and DeKalb Middle School combined subject to funding.
The proposed school budget includes funding for a half-time speech pathologist; one Academic Coach totaling $50,000 instead of $200,00 to fund four positions as had been originally proposed; a new full time Technology position at $30,000; and a four thousand dollar pay raise for the Transportation Director position putting that salary up to $36,710.
Funds are also included in the budget for Odyssey Ware. "This is a credit recovery program and we have been paying for that out of the Race to the Top money. That money has gone away so we have added that ($20,000) into the budget (Under Other Contracted Services),"said Director of Schools Mark Willoughby.
Fifteen thousand dollars is budgeted for New Attendance Software under Other Contracted Services.
Under Evaluation and Testing $37,000 is budgeted including new money of $18,000 for Universal Screener and $4,000 for ACT software. "We will be doing state required assessments of students throughout the year through Universal Screening. The ACT software will help students score better on the ACT," said Director Willoughby.
The Board of Education will meet again in a work session on Wednesday, June 18 at 6:30 p.m. regarding the 2014-15 school budget followed at 8:00 p.m. by a special called meeting to consider and act on passage of a revised Tentative budget for the 2014-15 year.