Board members at their May 10 business session penciled in $32,409,100 as the tentative amount of Cartersville City Schools' FY2011 budget, a number already down $209,000 from the current FY2010 budget but supplemented by $900,000 taken from the district's savings.
But next year's budget is expected to go even lower than last year's on news of the tax digest drop. Though officials with the city of Cartersville had initially expected a slight increase in the tax rolls, updated numbers have those figures trending down. Cartersville Schools Superintendent Howard Hinesley said that while district leaders had anticipated a drop, the size of that drop was not expected.
"Our original budget was developed at a 3 percent decrease. We never anticipated it would go up, so we used the 3 percent number. But it went down over 6 percent," Hinesley said, adding that the drop represents to the district somewhere between $400,000 to $500,000 cut in funding.
"It went way down over what we were led to believe it would be," he added. "We anticipated a drop, based on the best information we were given, and in fairness, was a little bit of raw speculation, because some of the requirements of doing the assessments changed, and the statutes."
Absorbing some of the expected local funding drop, Hinesley said, will be a slight increase in one state funding source due to a bump in enrollment.
"The good news is because we had a little bit of growth, we got a little bit of a bump in [Quality Basic Education funding], so we're currently analyzing that," Hinesley said. "When we got it, it wasn't something we were jumping up and down about, other than the fact that it was going to help us if we got a mid-year cut. What we've learned is that when you get these initial allocations, the last two or three years because of the economy, you have to treat it like 'funny money,' because it doesn't always show up for the whole year."
Though district leaders expect to work with a smaller budget when the fiscal year begins July 1 -- a final 2011 budget is set to be approved later this month -- Hinesley said he does not expect to propose during this calendar year any further cuts in the wake of diminished funding.
Cuts that had already been reflected in the tentative budget saw the elimination of 16 total staff positions, though only 11 employees are losing jobs as some of those positions were to be unoccupied next year due to staff retirements. No cuts to programs nor services were made in the tentative budget.
"What I think it means, and this is obviously a decision that the school board has, but what I think it means is we begin the school year just like we thought," Hinesley said. "We had already alerted our employees and tried to alert the community that if we got a mid-year cut, that we might have to take some steps at midyear -- we were working hard to avoid that.
"When we got the additional little bit in QBE, that gave us more of a comfort level where we might not have to do something at midyear, but now that we got this tax roll reduction ... we just don't have near the comfort level about a mid-year adjustment that we had before we got this tax roll."
Helping amid reduced revenues, Hinesley added, are the district's efforts to become more efficient in several areas, such as reducing the unneeded usage of substitute teachers. But those initiatives may be diminished if the system sees further cuts. "The other piece I think is important is that from the people we've talked with, we're led to believe that next year's tax roll will go down more than this year's did," Hinesley said.
The Cartersville School Board's next scheduled meeting is its June 10 work session, during which a more current budget could be put up for discussion.