Bartow Schools Approve Budget, Millage Rate
An amended version of the budget was approved after crunching some final numbers, leaving more flexibility for the system and a $13.7 million projected fund balance for the 2012 school year.
Bartow County Schools tightened up the finances and promised not to put any additional weight on local taxpayers after the board unanimously approved the official consolidated school budget for fiscal year 2012 and discussed not raising the millage rate, or property taxes, for local home owners.
A heartier budget was seen Thursday that varied slightly from the previous tentative budgets that had been proposed to the board, as the projected beginning fund balance jumped from $15.3 million to $22.2 million, which along with some changes in expenditures, achieved an ending fund balance at $13.7 million, nearly $5 million more than previously projected.
Chief Financial Officer Todd Hooper said the financial advisers had gotten the final reports that affect the beginning fund balances yearly and that the difference between revenues of $101.2 million and expenditures of $109.7 million would leave a nearly $8.4 million deficit.
“That is a significant improvement for the year, given the information we had,” said Hooper.
Hooper said the reason for the changes in the fund balance was that federal funds were being given on a month-to-month basis and addition $2.9 million federal job education fund added to the enlarged beginning fund balance.
“That deficit is different than the one we have discussed and the reason that deficit is different is because we have been able to positively impact our fund balance, which is one of the things we did anticipate to some measure, due to coming in under budget on our expenses for the year," said Hooper.
Hooper added financial advisors also looked into cutting areas that are not high impact to the youngsters in the county. For example, nearly $400,000 was skimmed from student transportation expenditures after recalculating the budget for these funds — gas prices have gone down — as an attempt to balance the systems revenues and expends.
“The reason we’ve done that is because fuel cost have come down since we’ve started planning our budget. We usually purchase around 400,000 gallons of fuel and we antipate being able to lock in a fixed fuel price of $3.00 a gallon and possibly below that,” said Hooper. “We originally budgeted for $4.00 a gallon.
In addition, Hooper said there is no millage increase in the proposed budget as previously projected, and local sources went down by $2.1 million. The board, however, has decided to back not increasing the millage rates/property taxes, and they would remain at 17.9 percent.
Superintendent John Harper said the approved fiscal year 2012 budget continues to keep the most funding inside the classroom and no student programs have been eliminated.
“It’s been a very difficult process,” said Harper. “We've been really fortunate that some of the information we were using prior to tonight has changed significantly for us for the good, but I can't express enough of the support, Mr. Hooper and his staff, as well as the directors have done in trying to conserve dollars inside of our school system to provide for children and keep teachers employed inside our classrooms," Harper said.
Harper also said that with the flexibility of approved budget, system employees will be receiving a check before Christmas and Thanksgiving. The system will, however, have five furlough days.
The board plans to vote on the proposed millage rate July 25 during the regularly scheduled meeting.