Board begins to budget

Friday, April 29, 2011

More questions than answers emerged from a first look at the school system's budget for the 2011-12 school year.

Members of the school board's budget committee met Monday to see a first draft of the budget prepared by schools director Roy Dukes.

Dukes had to admit right away that the amount of the federal budget cuts is still unknown and the amount of the state's Basic Education Program (BEP) payments are only an estimate.

What is known is that the school system will have to find the money to give non-BEP certified employees a 1.6 percent raise. The state has announced that it will give that raise to all certified personnel paid by BEP funds.

Dukes told committee members that BEP paid for 326.5 people in Marshall County and "that leaves us around 55 people we have to pay 1.6 percent."

Budget director Sheila Cook-Jones attended the meeting, but was unable to answer many of the committee members' questions, and had to promise to e-mail them the answers they wanted.

Cook-Jones was unable to tell Barbara Kennedy where the money had come from to repay the audit findings, and she had to guess that the pay for Lisa Isley's temporary replacement was coming out of "physical services."

She was similarly unable to explain discrepancies between amounts budgeted for this year and for next year.

"These numbers are all over the place," exclaimed Kennedy. "It's not making sense."

"I may have some wrong figures there," Cook-Jones said. "Let me check on that."

Committee chairman Donnie Moses asked about "regular education support" which was budgeted $100,000 lower than the previous year, and Dukes said he had "no idea" why it was that way.

Discussion moved on to Dukes' new organizational chart for Central Office. He has added assistants to the finance department and the supervisors of instruction.

"We need to find a way to cut somewhere," said Kennedy. "What about combining attendance and technology? After all, attendance record-keeping is technology based."

"What about combining the supervisors of instruction?" she continued, suggesting a single supervisor could have an assistant or two since "a lot of the functions in the job description are clerical and administrative."

After an hour, committee members decided they could do no more for the time being.

"Pending the explanations from Miss Cook-Jones and the analysis of the BEP numbers, we can't do much," Moses said.

"We need all the information," agreed Kennedy. "We all need to be as educated as possible" about the budget in order to get the county commission to agree with funding what the school system needs.

"They can't give us less than what we had last year," Ann Tears pointed out, but the consensus among committee members was that, in reality, the school system would need a good deal more.

The school board's May meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 9, and Dukes' new organizational chart should be on the agenda then, and, hopefully, finalized by June.

The budget committee set their next meeting for 6:30 p.m. May 16.