Coweta BOE tentatively adopts $165.7 million budget

The Coweta County Board of Education Tuesday voted to tentatively approve a $165.7 million general fund budget for the 2010-11 school year. Final approval is expected June 22.

The upcoming budget is approximately $6.5 million less than the $172.2 million operational budget adopted by the board in June 2009 for the 2009-2010 school year, said school system spokesperson Dean Jackson.

The 2010-2011 budget approved Tuesday includes a General Fund budget of $165,674,469. Of that amount, $88.136 million will come from state sources, with $75 million is expected to come from local ad valorem and other local sources and $2.5 million coming from federal sources.

Jackson said no reductions in academic offerings or personnel are anticipated in the 2010-2011 budget. The budget would also keep property tax rates at the current 18.59 mills despite an anticipated 2.5 percent decrease in the local tax digest in the upcoming fiscal year. The board has maintained the 18.59 mill tax rate for several years, Jackson added.

Pertaining to the 2009-2010 budget, Jackson said that budget was reduced significantly in July, 2009 due to state cuts imposed as a result of lower state revenue collections. Consequently, said Jackson, the budget tentatively adopted Tuesday would not differ significantly from the Coweta County School System’s Fiscal Year 2010 operational budget after those cuts took effect.

By way of comparison, Jackson said the general fund budget adopted in June 2008 totaled $175.9 million.

The school board is expected to adopt the budget in a called meeting scheduled for June 22. If adopted, the budget will take effect on July 1.

Jackson said that in addition to the $165.7 million General Fund budget, there are three other school system budgets approved by the board as a part of its total 2010-11 budget package. They include a $23,833,383 Special Revenue Fund (which accounts for state and federal funding sent to special federal programs such as Title I and federal lunch programs, as well as the school system’s self-supporting school food services), a $23,527,708 Capital Projects Fund (for construction and other capitol expenditures) and a $13,738,307 Debt Service Fund.

Those budgets, combined with the Operations budget, total $226,773,867, Jackson said. That budget compares to $251,866,663 total budget adopted in June 2009, he added.

School construction and debt service are funded principally by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds and some state funding for construction, Jackson explained. The budget reflects school construction and improvement projects and payments towards short-term (five-year) bonds issued for construction of projects under the current 1-cent sales tax for education.

Addressing other budget-related issues, Jackson said the budget continues a reduction of three planning days removed in the 2009-10 budget and shifts the start date of school to Monday, August 9. The budget adopted sets a 187-day contract for certified teachers and other 190-day employees, and three fewer days for all other employees who work more than 190 days. Teaching assistants, bus drivers and cafeteria workers would not be affected, because they work the 180 days that students are in session during the year, he said.

"I want to express my appreciation to all of our employees” in the school system for controlling spending over the past fiscal year, said Superintendent Blake Bass.  "From the 29th of last July when word came down that we were being cut 8 percent, everyone accepted that pitched in. We spent what we had to spend, and what people could do without, we did without."

That level of planning and discipline has put the Coweta County School system in a better position than many other state school systems, Bass said.
"It has made us a system where we can take care of some of our needs and our people," he said.

Jackson said the school board Tuesday also adopted a class size waiver resolution required by the state Department of Education. The resolution allows school systems greater flexibility for the upcoming school year by adopting their own local system-wide maximum average class size.

Class size maximums will be increased to exceed the current state standards by 1-3 students in all regular education classes Kindergarten through 12th grade, in English Language Learners, Gifted, Early Intervention Program, Remedial Education Program, Vocational, and Alternative Education, but with no change in special education classes.

The adopted class size averages match the same extended maximums offered by the state during 2009-10.

"We want to emphasize that we are not changing our class sizes," said Assistant Superintendent Wayne Outlaw. "This is exactly what we recommended last year” and which were allowed under state mandates in the 2009-10 school year.