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Bartow school system budget sees dwindling fund balance
by Monica Burge
June 04, 2013 02:35 PM | 2760 views | 0 0 comments | 148 148 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The good news is the tentative budget for the Bartow County School system for the new fiscal year covers all expenses for the upcoming school year.

The bad news, according to Chief Financial Officer Todd Hooper, is the system continues to siphon from its dwindling fund balance account to do so.

Hooper said the projected beginning fund balance for the beginning of the year is $15.6 million.

“Let me tell you that is down from just over $18 million actual that we started out with,” Hooper said at a recent school board business meeting. “So you see again, a budget deficit is not just a budget, it’s an actual number. We are losing [about] $1.5 million in our fund balance.”

The tentative budget has projected revenues of about $107.5 million, which falls about $6 million short of the system’s expenses Hooper said.

He added a large chunk, about 97 percent, goes towards salaries and benefits.

“So when you start to look and say, ‘how can I make up $6 million?’ there’s only $12 million of energy, gas, consumables and supplies in there,” Hooper said. “Quite obviously, to cover that gap it’s impossible to do it from cutting stuff. So, I say that to kind of lay the line out that, obviously if our fund balance goes to $9.5 million, we won’t be able to continue operating the way we have in the past.”

Hooper said a fund balance at $9.5 million paints a “dismal” picture for the future.

Hooper said factors affecting the budget, aside from a decrease in revenues, are the rising cost of insurance premiums for certified employees, rising fuel costs and costs associated with new school construction.

Hooper said the sale of the old Cloverleaf Elementary School, which was approved by the school board at the same business meeting, was a “positive move.”

Hooper compared the tentative budget to budgets in better economic times.

In fiscal year 2009, the budget was balance with revenues at $122.9 million.

Hooper said a reflection of those “good times” is the fund balance which stood at $25 million.

Hooper said the current estimate of revenues is about 17 percent lower and the expenditures are down about 12.5 percent as well.

Bartow County Schools Superintendent John Harper stressed the budget is tentative and there are factors affecting the budget that could significantly change the bottom line by June 30.

“It’s a starting point,” Harper said.

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