Feds cut school funding by 17.5%

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Budget committee members, from left, Sam Smith, Barbara Kennedy, and Harvey Jones Jr. listen intently during their meeting Monday night.

School board budget committee members on Monday night were told that 17.5 percent had been cut from federal funds for the next school year.

Schools director Roy Dukes informed committee members he had been notified of this cut by e-mail Friday. He explained this means a loss of $45,472.

While that amount may seem small compared to the $33.68 million school budget approved last year, the effect is significant to a system that has enough childen eligible for free and reduced priced lunches to qualify for the Title II funds, Dukes said.

"Statewide the effect is more than $8 million," he said.

Federal projects director Linda Williams-Lee advised the school board that federal funding is continually changing.

"We were told it would be the same," she said. "I've been working on this budget since March. Every day I'm subtracting and adding."

She's to get an "award letter" stating federal funding for the district, Williams-Lee said. However, she doesn't anticipate receiving this until August, and changes will continue to be made until October.

"Give me until about October," she told budget committee members. "I'll keep you updated."

State and county fiscal years start July 1.

Committee chairman Donnie Moses agreed they were willing to wait to approve the final federal budget and the committee's discussion moved on to the state's Basic Education Program (BEP) and its figures for the high schools.

Moses and Barbara Kennedy quickly found a "huge disparity" between Cornersville and Forrest high schools, with spending of nearly $667,000 over what's funded by BEP at Cornersville.

"You and Suzanne Ingram and Julie Thomas need to take a hard look at this," Kennedy told Dukes. "I can't help thinking there's a problem with the formula somewhere."

"Double check these numbers," agreed Moses. "There's no point continuing (this discussion) without accurate numbers."

At the last budget committee meeting it was revealed that the district appeared to have money left over from the 2010-2011 school year, and this "positive variance" was discussed again Monday night.

"We lost revenue," former committee chairman Kristen Gold said. "Therefore we must have had a decrease of expenses. Where are expenses less than budgeted?"

Budget director Sheila Cook-Jones gave them a summary of expenditures, and this revealed that some spending had been attributed to line items where the budgeted amount was zero.

"This shows a lack of supervision," exclaimed Kennedy.

"It could have been done in error," said Cook-Jones. "Some lines are way under (what was budgeted)."

"As soon as we incurred the expense (where there was nothing budgeted) we should have addressed it," said Moses. "I would think we should do it monthly. If you catch it the first month, it will only happen once."

After more discussion of the mysteries of revenues and expenditures, Moses said, "We could sit here until midnight and not have all the answers. I don't guess we've really clarified anything."

Gold could see that spending was less than anticipated.

"Basically, we've spent $400,000 less that what was budgeted," she said. "It would be prudent to know where it is. Maybe there's something we're budgeting we can scale back on. We need to know."

Cook-Jones was asked to present revised figures at the next committee meeting, and Dukes was specifically requested to check the BEP numbers, and to work on the organizational chart for Central Office.

"It would be na*ve to think we'll have something to vote on at the July board meeting," Moses concluded.

"Have you heard from the county commission?" asked Gold.

"Tom Sumners (the chairman) asked me what our timetable was," answered Mike Keny.

Committee members agreed to meet again on Thursday, July 7, ahead of the full board's meeting on Monday, July 11.

"We should be pretty close to final numbers then," Gold said.