The Guntersville Board of Education held the first of two mandatory budget hearings last Monday. They will have another hearing this Monday at 5 p.m. as part of their regular monthly meeting.
The board’s chief financial officer, Amy Sherer, started the meeting by saying a budget is not just her. A budget takes every single person doing their part and she appreciates all the hard work of everyone involved.
She called out two people for staying on top of their department budgets. Those individuals were transportation supervisor Bo McRee and maintenance and facilities supervisor Jeff Mims. She expressed that she was grateful that they kept great records and were on top of their budgets.
The total proposed budget revenue by funds for the fiscal year 2020 is $22,076,238. This breaks down into four categories: the general fund at $17,526,357; the special revenue fund at $2,480,816; capital projects at $2,048,465 and the fiduciary fund at $20,600.
Sherer said they have not started to receive the new half-cent tax. They had not seen any of the funds come in as of the meeting on Monday night. She has included $1.4 million in the budget that the tax is projected to generate.
She showed how revenue was broken into state, federal, local and other. For state the total is $11,875,147; the federal is $1,894,695; local is $8,196,646 and other is $109,750. This is the same total as the fiscal year in the amount of $22,076,238.
The state department of education local educational agency (LEA) allocations for Guntersville City Schools showed the comparison from fiscal year 2018 to fiscal year 2020. Although it shows that the schools get $11,660,483 the schools only receive $10,110,623 and they have to take the remaining $1,549,860 out of local funds to reach the total of $11,660,483. Every school system has to do this, not just Guntersville City Schools. It is a state requirement.
She showed the highlights of state funding. They took a decrease in career tech operation and maintenance funds (O&M). Sherer said that the decrease for the at risk was a little more than she wanted, but it is still something that they will be able to work around.
For the fiscal year 2020 general fund, local revenue is broken into 9 categories. The countywide ad valorem tax is $540,000; the district regular ad valorem tax is $474,636; the special ad valorem tax is $1,549,860; district sales tax $3,000,000; $151,000; $150,000; $7,000; $3,000; and other local revenue at $187,950.
Sherer said she will be putting the money for the district special ad valorem tax aside. This money has been budgeted for this special account. They have to show that it was used for a specific purpose. This amount equals the amount Sherer budgeted for the school system to put aside in that account once it is received.
For the proposed general fund budget, most of the money spent is in in instructional and instructional support. This amount is $12,762,565. This is the way it is supposed to be, Sherer said, because that is the reason that they are there; to educate the children.
The rest of the general fund budget is operations/maintenance/capital projects at $1,321,183; transportation at $687,404; debt service/transfers at $500,379; administrative at $970,201; and other at $330,840. Add in the instruction/instructional support and the total for the proposed budget is $16,572,572.
For the total general fund instruction/instructional support, Sherer broke it down into the 10 areas in which they have employees. The school staff includes 119 regular teacher units, 5 counselors, 4 librarians, 20.5 para-professionals (aides), 5 bookkeepers, 5 secretaries, 4 principals, 2 assistant principals, 1 registered nurse and 3 LPN nurses. This totals to be 168.5 full-time equivalent employees.
The budget for operations and maintenance is $1,321,183. Sherer said that Mims has been monitoring his purchases very well.
Transportation is $674,322. The amount includes salaries and benefits along with purchase services.
The general administration includes the superintendent and administration staff along with board management. She included the legal, audit, insurance, printing costs and other expenses that the staff may use. She said she tried to come up with everything that they may be doing with the high school project. She said she put some extra funds in this area for the project since they did not budget for things of that nature last year.
The capital, debt and other category showed the debt services. The school had one of their debt series pay off. The lease is the buses. A question was asked if Sherer could give the board members an amortization schedule and she told the board that she could.
The special revenue funds totals $2,917,358 and have special guidelines and limitations. She said this includes the child nutrition plan (CNP), federal programs and includes the local public funds.
“This amount has everything thrown in there,” Sherer said.
The amounts for special revenue funds are: Title I and Title V-B rural in the amount of $407,683; Title II part a $62,571; IDEA – B special education and preschool $385,086; Perkins $21,714; child nutrition program $1,858,279; and local school – public funds $182,025.
Chief academic officer Paige Raney handles the federal program which is Title I. She said it is not a competitive program. This is earned through their free and reduced rate in combination with their daily membership at the school for the first 20 days.
There are three of the four schools that are right at 50 percent poverty. The high school for the first time is over 40 percent. They have an increasing amount of federal dollars that will be coming into the program.
Raney said most of these funds are sent straight to the schools for their Title I programs. The school has a Title I budget committee that meets to discuss where the funds need to be spent. The money goes towards the kids and their learning.
All professional development is funded through these programs along with software. They buy equipment, Chromebooks and other means to support the students.
Title III supports the English learning (EL) students. The school took a decrease in that this year, Raney said.
Title V is the rural education funds. These funds are used at the high school for the recovery program. It pays for the software that runs that program. It pays for the supplements for the teachers that teach in that.
“It is very spread out,” Raney said, “but it mainly goes towards the schools.”
The community engagement and public relations director and child nutrition program director Julia Covington spoke about how the child nutrition program is based on the federal reimbursement dollars.
“Student participation is always a goal,” Covington said.
The CNP is self-contained, but they are always looking to feed the kids.
Sherer special education in the special revenue budget. She said a small amount is included in this for a special education preschool. The budget for special education was cut across the board and across the state. It is something that will have be picked up from the general budget, Sherer said. They have tried to think ahead about what they can do to help save money for the special education program.
Perkins is a grant for the career tech program fund. This is handled by Jeff Jones and Roseanne Mabrey. Sherer said the funds are mainly used for materials, supplies and to purchase services for the classroom.
The public funds have gone down, Sherer said. This may be in part because the bookkeepers are learning the difference between public and non-public funds. They have started to understand how to post them.
“A truly non-public fund has a less stringent list of restrictions on what they can spend,” Sherer said, “so I think that is why we are seeing a decline.”
Project Lead the Way (PLTW) is also a part of this grant. The grant pays for registration fees. They have to pay a fee of $3,500 to be a part of the program. The grant covers that fee as well. Title I cannot be used at the high school, but the PLTW falls under the Perkins grant so they are able to have the funds for this program paid this way.
Sherer believes the school system will be extremely close to its required two-month fund balance at the end of the current year. She will not know for certain until Sept. 30 when everything is closed out, but she believes that they will make it. That is their preliminary goal. With the new budget, they are still trying to stay with the two-month fund balance.
The half cent sales tax revenue is a separate account. Sherer has a separate line for this in her budget. There is a special code that will be used to account for the money. If the money is spent, then it will go to that line and no other. She will be able show exactly how much money has been spent, what is left and any other details needed. The City Council had asked that the funds be tracked that way.
Sherer has an analysis of the general fund balance. She said that ADM or Average Daily Membership is still an issue. Superintendent Brett Stanton said the reason for the drop in student numbers is because of the tuition. It is up some this year, but he believes that it has something to do with the system having fewer students. He said he believes that the facilities may play a part in it as well.
Chairman Trey Giles said with other school systems now charging tuition, it may help Guntersville City Schools.
Raney said kindergarten classes are back up to what is expected. They have a trend that will affect the high school next year. They will lose about 35 kids. There is a trend from third to eighth grade that is holding about 125 to 130 students. School leaders like to have about 150 students per grade level.
Kindergarten has 142 student right now. She said most of the classes in the past could have as few as 14 students, but the goal is to have 18. The pre-k classes are full. She believes that they should open more classes, but they would have to find a place to put them. They have a waiting list that could lead to having another class.
Local revenue is stable. Tax money has been increasing which shows the city is stable.
The fund balance is expected to end with at least a $1.73 million fund balance in Sept. 2019 and the projection for 2020 is $2.05 million.
Sherer has several focus areas that she will be focusing on this year which include more input from stakeholders, monitoring of budget balances, monitoring capital expenditures, making sure to stay within budget and addressing attendance and substitute usage.
This was the first of the two mandatory budget hearing meetings. The next budget meeting will be held on Aug. 26 at 5 p.m.