Education committee discusses finances

Friday, November 7, 2008

The County Commission's Education Committee met again with the School Board and other interested parties for another freewheeling discussion on budgeting and finance.

They were continuing a meeting that started last week in the Courthouse Annex with a discussion of centralized accounting. Last Tuesday, they met at the Central Office.

Budget director Janet Wiles distributed an analysis of Basic Education Program funding for all the schools in the system and the group spent time understanding this.

The special circumstances surrounding teachers' pay were also discussed. Some elect to receive 10 paychecks, while others opt for 12. Legally, Wiles explained, they have to be paid before the fiscal year ends on July 31, so some teachers are cashing three checks at once in the summer. Chairman Larry McKnight said this had caused some concerns and temporary budget shortfalls for the county, but Wiles said it was the first time she'd heard that this was a problem.

The group agreed that improved communication between Wiles, County Budget Director Freda Terry, and County Trustee Marilyn Erwin, would alleviate this problem.

"Improved communication is the key," said school board member Mark Wilkerson, who used to be a member of the County Commission.

"That's why we're here," said McKnight, "To ask and answer questions."

Mary Ann Neill had made a print out of the difference in the last six years between the estimated fund balance and the actual fund balance, and wanted to know why there were surpluses of up to $250,000.

Wiles asserted that generally the variation was less than one-half of one percent, which she thought was "pretty dad-gum good," and added, "Since I've been here we've tried to save money to carry forward to the next year."

Lively dialogue on a wide-range of finance-related topics continued until the meeting was adjourned at 8 p.m.