Bartow BOE facing huge budget deficit
by Jessica Loeding
Jun 07, 2011 | 3294 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A tentative fiscal year 2012 budget presented during Monday's work session provided a startling look at the Bartow County School System's finances.

The system's plan shows a projected beginning fund balance of $96,710,167 with the projected ending balance at $50,084,480. The $46,625,687 is reflected in the difference between expenditures and revenue, $200,397,268 and $153,771,581, respectively.

The general fund balance decrease was about $6.85 million, dropping from $15,351,438 to $8,503,671. Revenues in the general fund are tentatively set at $103,270,765, with expenditures totaling $110,118,532.

Chief Financial Officer Todd Hooper said revenue at the state level dropped between $6 and $7 million.

"When you look at our local revenue, year after year we have continued to maintain that local level, with the exception of last year and somewhat this year because of property values falling. Those cuts in revenue at the state level are what drive these decisions that we make locally, and I'm going to ask everyone in the community to bear that in mind," he said.

Both the special revenue fund and the debt service fund of the proposed budget show a zero balance at the fiscal year's end. School nutrition reflected a change of almost $2 million, and the capital projects ending balance showed a difference of $37.8 million. The system currently is constructing three new schools -- Cloverleaf Elementary, Emerson Elementary and Adairsville Middle.

Hooper said the areas of instruction, general administration and central support services suffered the largest cuts in the budget: 4.5 percent in instruction, a whopping 30 percent in general administration and 16 percent in central support services.

"I can say that's probably the lowest fund balance -- I know it's the lowest fund balance -- ending fund balance I've seen since I've been here," Hooper said during his presentation. "It's one that begins to put us in a position that in order to continue to doing the things we've done locally -- it's going to call into question whether we can continue to do those things as we go into the following budget year.

"So there are some decisions that as a school system, as a community, we have to decide on what kind of philosophy we look at toward education."

Superintendent Dr. John Harper said he and system officials had worked to keep as many people employed as possible. Positions currently unfilled face possible elimination.

"We are going to make the best of a bad situation," Harper said.

The system will vote on the tentative budget during Monday's business session. However, the system is required by their charter to advertise the budget two weeks prior to adoption. Board Chairman Dr. Davis Nelson said the system will hold a special called meeting at 8:30 a.m. June 23 -- two weeks after the notice appears in Thursday's newspaper -- to vote on the budget.

The school board also heard a presentation from Rick Little, director of Construction and Planning, on the status of the under-construction schools.

Little also told the board that the new Cass High School project had reached closeout. The school's final cost, minus furnishings, was $65,086,640 with an additional $3,075,000 in architect fees. The original amount budgeted for the school was $61,500,000.

The board will hold its regular business meeting Monday at 6 p.m. in the central office board room.