As approved, the budget expects a beginning fund balance total of $25,929,673, total revenues of $155,688,766, total expenditures of $171,405,456 and an ending fund balance of $10,212,983. Although a tentative millage rate, set at the current 17.90 mills, was proposed it did not pass with a vote of 2 to 2, with board Chair Davis Nelson effectively abstaining from the vote.
After the meeting, Nelson said the board was waiting until July to get a final opinion on what it can expect for tax revenues.
“We don’t set the millage rate usually until August because we don’t know from the tax assessor’s office what the true numbers are going to be. But we usually pass a tentative millage rate based on the budget that we’ve produced, hoping that the amount of money the tax assessor’s office is going to tell us we’re going to get matches up with what we’ve put into the budget,” Nelson.
Though the board’s staff does have an idea of what the school district can expect with tax revenues, Nelson said the board was also waiting to set the tentative millage rate as the board would have to go through the steps of scheduling two hearings and advertising those hearings whether the board raised the millage rate above the tentative millage rate or if the tax base was larger than expected and additional revenue were to come in.
“My feeling is we will have a better handle in July on that,” Nelson said. “We’ve done everything we can do to know, and this being normal years, you wouldn’t have to worry about it because you have enough in reserve to cover yourself.”
During the meeting Superintendent John Harper said the system had run through its reserves to make it through the recession. He added that when he first came to the Bartow County School System the millage rate was approximately 1 mill higher.
“That was when we were socking it away in reserve and that’s what we’ve been able to live on the last six years, and unfortunately that is certainly not the case. We were gaining, receiving, about $40 million in local funds in past budget years and we’re currently receiving $35 million. If you look at the 2 percent inflation over those years, you’re talking about a 12 percent increase in just inflation, where we were in our higher taxation rates. Mr. Chairman, I know those are taboo words, we talk about taxation rate, but our role is to support the students of the county and unfortunately that’s what we’re looking at,” Harper said.
After it returned from an executive session, which saw no votes, the board approved a spending resolution for July, which would allow the system to operate throughout the month until a decision on the tentative millage rate was made. The resolution does not increase any spending, Nelson said, while allowing Harper and his staff to continue operations and advertise for the tentative millage rate hearings.
During its meeting, the board approved an increase to the price of full lunches in all schools. Elementary school lunches will rise to $2.10, while lunches at the middle and high schools will rise to $2.35. Harper said the increase was mandated through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Board members, let me explain to you that none of us want to do that. The USDA is requiring us to do that because we’re part of the nutrition program for the United States, and so this is a requirement they have for us,” he said.
School staff member Kalin Prevatt told the board it related to the requirements the school system must meet as a member of the National School Lunch Program.
“The USDA, since we are part of the National School Lunch Program, does require that we do the 10 percent increase,” she said. “It looks at what we’re actually charging, and then it looks at the difference between the reimbursement for the full paid [lunches] versus the free paid [lunches], which is $2.65. We’re under that, so they’re requiring that we increase our paid lunch price for the students by 2 percent plus the 2.27 percent. It’s something that they are requireing if you want to stay in the National School Lunch Program. It’s not something we want to do. If we could get away from that, absolutely, we wouldn’t raise it. We don’t want to.”
In other business, the board:
• Heard the first reading of changes to board policy relating to drug free workplace.
• Heard the first reading of changes to the Professional Personnel Evaluation regulation.
• Heard the first reading of regulations pertaining to an employee dress code.
• Approved Macy Defnall as the official open records officer.
• Approved a system-wide copier replacement in the amount of $190,411 annually for the next three years.
• Approved a renewal of property and casualty insurance in the amount of $556,407.
• Approved a subscription renewal with Pearson/PowerSchool.
• Approved the 2014/2015 student handbook.
• Approved contracted services with special education-related service providers.
The next BCBOE meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 21, at 6 p.m. at 65 Gilreath Road, Cartersville.