Whitfield County increases school system budget

Whitfield County increases school system budget

June 7th, 2011 by Mariann Martin in News

Whitfield County Schools Chief Financial Officer Kenny Sheppard

Whitfield County Schools Chief Financial Officer Kenny Sheppard

DALTON, Ga. - The Whitfield County School Board approved a 2 percent increase in its preliminary budget for next year, despite expecting a more than 6 percent decrease in revenues.

The budget uses reserve funds to make up the difference. The board approved the budget at the regular meeting Monday evening.

The board will hold a specially called meeting at 7:30 a.m. June 22 to vote on the final budget.

Chief Financial Officer Kenny Sheppard told board members the school system's reserve fund is expected to be about $9.5 million at the end of the year. That number will allow them to draw on some reserve funding in order to not make drastic cuts to the budget this year.

"Knowing we are in a slow recovery process, we wanted to minimize the impact on the staff," Sheppard said after the meeting. "But there's not a lot of wiggle room in this budget."

The school budget went from $92.2 million last year to $94.1 this year, with most of that increase in required salary increases. At the same time, revenues dropped from $95.3 million to $89.1 million.

The school lost $3.9 million in federal stimulus dollars, a drop that really hurt them, Sheppard said. The local digest from local tax revenues also decreased $1.6 million.

Sheppard said the school has decided to spread out the needed cuts over the next five years, cutting $1.5 million this year, the same next year and about $1 million the following year, while drawing on reserve funds.

Some of the cuts made this year were through attrition, by not replacing nearly 20 retiring teachers and staff.

The school system hopes that revenues will pick up during that time, allowing them to increase the fund balance back to its current level.

Board member Thomas Barton said he felt good about the budget, after working on it for months and going over all the details.

"We looked at every possible way to cut it, going over all the quarters and dollars," he said. "It's a tight budget."

In other business of the evening, board members voted to table a recommendation that the school consolidate some bus stops. The change would have dropped several children off at one location, with some of the children walking up to one-half mile to their homes. It would save about $50,000, officials said.

Board members expressed concern about the safety of the children and asked for more information before they approve the measure.

Contact Mariann Martin at 706-980-5824 or mmartin@timesfreepress.com