Coweta BoE adopts FY 2012 budget

The Coweta County Board of Education June 14 adopted a $165.5 million General Fund budget for the FY 2011-2012 school year that begins July 1. The budget includes a decrease of $200,000 over the current budget. The new budget includes an anticipated June 30, 2012 fund balance of approximately $23 million that, given the lackluster economy, could easily be needed a year from now.

The $165,483,455 operational budget takes effect July 1 and extends through June 30, 2012. Like school boards across Georgia and the nation, the Coweta County Board of Education based the budget on expected revenue estimates including anticipated funding from the Georgia Dept. of Education and the Coweta County tax digest, said school system spokesperson Dean Jackson.

 The FY 2011-2012 budget is essentially a repeat of the current $165.7 million operational budget with $200,000 shaved off, Jackson said, adding that no reductions in K-12 academic offerings are expected. 

Though the school year for students will stay at 180 days, the budget continues a calendar from last year that reduces the work-year by three days for all employees working more than 180 days. The measure will save approximately $2 million.

The reductions came as a result of state cuts fueled by decreasing state revenue collections and, similarly, because of decreases in Coweta County’s tax digest. Both those funding variables are a direct result of the continuing recession that has exerted a heavier toll on local and state economies, Jackson said.

The Coweta school system will end the school year with approximately $26.5 million in fund equity, essentially equivalent to money in the checking account. The system is projected to have a fund equity balance of approximately $23 million in the bank on June 30, 2012.

Though currently an unknown quantity, that $23 million may well be needed given that the U.S. economy does not appear to be anywhere near the end of the recession that Washington and Wall Street announced had ended more than a year ago. More home mortgages nationwide are upside down today than was the case a year ago and, announced just days ago, national retail sales declined in May for the first time in 10 months.

Perhaps just as significant to most Coweta property owners, the FY 2012 budget also keeps property tax rates at the current 18.59 mills. The budget anticipates a 5 percent reduction in the Coweta County tax digest, resulting in $3,032,884 in revenue decreases from the current fiscal year, said Jackson. The Coweta County Tax Assessor is predicting a 4-5 percent decrease in the tax digest, but school system financial planners tend to be more conservative and have projected a 5 percent reduction in the county’s worth to be on the safe side, Jackson said. 

In addition to the $165.5 million General Fund, there were three other components tentatively approved by the board this week as a part of the overall total FY 2011-2012 budget. Those include Special Revenue, Capital Projects and ESPLOST (Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funds.
Jackson said Special Revenue at $24,141,317 accounts for state and federal funding sent to special federal programs such as Title I, federal lunch programs, and IDEA.

At $41,147,795, Capital Projects covers the cost of construction and other capital expenditures during the year, said Jackson. The fund reflects school construction and improvement projects during the upcoming year. School construction and debt service are funded principally by ESPLOST funds and some state funding for construction.

Debt Service payments are made from ESPLOST collections already on-hand and set aside specifically towards short-term (five-year) bonds issued for construction projects under the current one-cent SPLOST. Debt service for FY 2011-2012 was set at $9,731,432, Jackson said.

Those funds, combined with the General Fund, total $238,503,999.

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