NEWBERRY — Board members and school district staff heard encouraging fiscal news Monday night at a budget work session.
Though numbers are still preliminary while the district waits for information related to county reassessment and state revenue, CFO Susan Dowd said projected local tax revenues would increase for the 2014 budget, a development that could help offset the district’s need to use fund balance to meet its operating expenses.
Current taxes for operations at 186.8 mils raised $13,258,952 but the budget projection for 2015 is $13,617,216. Increased revenue is projected from delinquent taxes, up from $550,000 to $822,050, such that local revenue would comprise 34.14 percent of the district’s 2015 budget.
Dowd said the only changes thus far were to the local revenue portions of the budget since the state had not given new information about the revenue it allocates.
A few changes were proposed to expenditures. The district proposed adding a classified instructional assistant position and changing the match needed for reading coaches.
Four “fully funded” coaches from the state actually carry approximately $14,000 additional cost to the district per coach.
Latitude might be found in the sharing of part-time coaches among four other district schools which would limit district expenditures on the part-time coaches.
Board member Ike Bledsoe said he was in favor of four fully funded reading coaches but wondered if it would be prudent to wait to implement the four part-time positions.
Assistant Superintendent for Operations Jim Suber mentioned changes in operating expenses due to an increase in the consumer price index and due to the district bringing the new district office online.
Suber said the district is in negotiations about some contracts such as its landscaping. One credit the district receives is from the cleaning service which no longer will need to clean the old district office building as it is transitioning into temporary storage space.
The board and district administrators agreed the ELA Coach positions were needed and next year one of the ELA coach positions would replace a science coach position.
Title I funds could figure into a way to swap coaches, something Bledsoe asked about, but the coaches actually are funded from three different categories of funds.
Once more the district recommended a portion of the STEM initiative be delayed a year to spread the costs over longer periods of time, a savings of approximately $70,000 in the 2015 budget.
A district wide technology coach remains in the district budget, a $70,000 item including benefits.
Superintendent Bennie Bennett discussed class size ratios among district schools. After a school-by-school breakdown the district presented the board with a 20:1 ratio or lower per elementary school although there might be some variances among particular grade levels. The levels were deemed consistent with categories statewide.
“The last few years the district had to use a good bit of fund balance but this year the district anticipates using very little,” Bennett said.
Bennett also called the work session an opportunity to walk through every piece of the budget and he noted the notice given regarding potential changes to the use of some Title I funding at four schools who are on Title I.
The bottom line of Dowd’s preliminary prediction was for the district to use about $130,000 of fund balance in this year’s budget.
In other business, Bledsoe mentioned resistance he’d heard from community members about new common core report cards for grades 1 and 2. Principal Kim Hamilton said some parents like the new cards but others prefer the familiar A-B-C grading system.
Principal Beth Brooks said the report cards have been called tedious by first and second grade parents but that they are adjusting. Brooks also mentioned the report cards make teachers more accountable for collecting data to back up their student evaluations and assessments.
First reading of the budget will be May 19 at the new district office building on Main Street.