School budget for first half close

Friday, March 2, 2012

Expenditures for the first half of the school year are mostly on track, school board budget committee members learned at a Tuesday night meeting.

Led by chairman Donnie Moses, committee members worked their way through 31 pages of numbers relating to expenditures for the quarter ending Dec. 31.

Most of the line-item figures for salaries and benefits were at or near 50 percent. Committee members agreed this was correct since the school year was half over.

Some line items, however, were already close to, or exceeded, the amount budgeted for the entire year.

"We have lots of overs, and not nearly so many unders," exclaimed Barbara Kennedy.

"I'm seeing a trend," Moses said. "Insurance is definitely more than we budgeted; not health, but liability and so on."

In many areas, the amount for "other" was at or over 100 percent, and Budget Director Sheila Cook-Jones was unable to provide many explanations for what was included in "other" expenses.

"I'm not real sure on that," she said, promising to look into it and have answers soon for the committee members.

"We have to communicate to those folks they are over budget," Moses said.

"Water and sewer" was at 84 percent of the budgeted figure for the year.

"I would have expected to see it closer to 50 percent," Moses said. "With the Siemens project I would have expected it to be less."

"It does include the sports fields," schools director Roy Dukes pointed out.

"Either we didn't budget enough, or we're not seeing the savings," said Moses.

He went on to say that next year's budget would be based on this year's actual numbers.

"There are about 18 line-item corrections to make," Moses concluded. "This would get the first half of the year cleaned up.

"Do you feel like this is worthwhile?" he asked his committee members, and they unanimously responded, "Absolutely!"

Special education supervisor Lisa Ventura asked if the school board wanted her to prepare a budget with every single thing every principal had asked for.

"Six schools have asked for an extra special ed teacher," she said, adding that this costs almost $61,000 per teacher.

"Are these wishes or needs?" asked Ann Tears.

"I'm going to tell you what's an absolute need," Ventura promised.

"Start getting these lists together," said former budget committee chairman Kristen Gold. "We need to have conversations about what we really need. It's important to have the conversation about the priorities."

"We have to let the commission know what we need," said Tears.

"We've been on Maintenance of Effort for years," said Moses. "If we can't stay compliant on Maintenance of Effort, we'll have to have more."

"We have to prioritize by what's needed to be compliant," Kennedy said. "It's really not negotiable. I'd like to think Marshall County is going to turn around, but this is not the time to say we need more money. We'll have to come up with ways to cut somewhere else."

Dukes told committee members he already had lists from principals of what was needed for their schools, and said he would break them down into academic, instructional, maintenance, and painting needs. Roof leaks at the oldest elementary schools, as well as Marshall County High School and Forrest, will be addressed during the summer, Dukes said. Capital outlay money has already been budgeted for this, so materials will be purchased before the end of the budget year on June 30, and the work will be done during summer vacation.