The Board of Education on Thursday is prepared to adopt its full general fund budget for next year.
The balanced $96,474,266 budget is expected has more revenues than last year, accounting for an increase in state funds, however local funding sources, like property tax revenues, are expected to be down. School system CFO Byron Jones said a change in equalization funding formula from the state has benefited Troup County, with almost $2 million more in state funds for the upcoming year compared to the previous year, however state-mandated increases in worker-related costs almost offset the increase.
“When we started this process, we were trying to cut anywhere from $3.2 to $4 million,” Jones said. “Unity (Elementary School) … that closure of that facility, which was the third facility in three years in Troup County (to close, saved) $1.1 million, mainly in administration.”
Jones said other school systems that have not made similar cuts over the last few years are struggling to now catch up with big budget deficits.
“We have sister systems that have not cut, are at max furlough days – six to 10 – and are approving those budgets again with six to 10,” he said. “Next year, we have cities, counties that are within 50 miles of us that are saying they have to close six schools, they need to close four this year and two next year. So, again, this is a real problem that everybody’s having.”
The school system also cut $1.9 million in general operations and last month was looking at pulling up to $500,000 in reserve funds, but Jones said it appeared now that the increase in state funding could cover that. That would allow the school system to avoid touching its current $11.5 million in reserve.
The school system also had considered the possibility of raising the school system’s property tax millage rate up to .25 mills to make up $500,000 in expected decrease in property tax collections, if necessary. Now it appeared that wouldn’t be necessary, but Jones said he won’t know exactly where the school system stands because the final amount of property tax collections won’t be available until June 25, but felt he had made a conservative estimate.
“Those last two items, reserve ($)500(,000) and a millage increase of ($)500(,000), may not happen,” Jones said. “We just need a little while to figure those out.”
The school system will keep its current furlough day plan of two for teachers and five for administrators. He added that health insurance, retirement and state-mandated pay increases will increase expenses.
“The bottom line is that we don’t believe we will need to dip into the reserve right now and we don’t believe we’ll need to raise the millage rate just to get the ($)500,000,” Jones said.