The proposed tentative budget for the Bartow County School system for fiscal year 2015 is set to be adopted at the school board’s business meeting June 23.
But Superintendent John Harper said the process for putting together the budget for approval has not been easy.
“We still do not have a balanced budget,” said Harper at a special called meeting June 5. “If funding were where it was seven years ago, we would be looking at a balanced budget.”
The total proposed budget for the school system is tentatively set at $171.4 million. In the general fund alone, expenditures total $110.69 million.
According to Director of Finance Megan Brown, revenue projections are about $5 million less, forcing the school system to dip into its fund balance to cover expenses.
Currently, the fund balance sits at $9.5 million, but Brown said that is projected to shrink to less than $4 million by the end of the upcoming fiscal year.
Harper said while state legislators have allocated about $10.3 billion for education, only a fraction is set aside for kindergarten through grade 12 education.
“Only 38 percent of that is for K-12 education,” Harper said. “The rest is for higher education”
Harper said state and federal mandates, along with societal concerns for students, are placing added financial burdens on school systems with little to no outside funding,
“Public schools are facing major economical funding cuts from the state right down to the local level,” Harper said. “State funding per student in Georgia has declined 15.3 percent.”
Harper said while funding has declined, the percent of economically disadvantaged students climbed from 45 to 60 percent across the state.
In the county’s school system, about 51.3 percent of its students receive free or reduced lunch, Harper said.
Harper said school systems across the state have felt the impact of funding losses and have been asked to do more with less.
That includes not only instruction, but extracurricular activities as well Harper said.
Even with financial challenges, Harper said there are several programs that have not been reduced due to state revenue cuts.
About $2.3 million is allotted for activities such as art, music and physical education. Harper said the funding has been made available with no local tax increase.
Harper said there has been no significant increase in class size, there are nurses and media specialists at each school as well as after-school programs.
Harper said the county’s school system has had “significant issues” that include cutting central office staff and using reserve funds.
A bright spot, said Brown is that there is an expected increase in local tax collection.
“Getting this increase will be good for our district since we have not seen an increase in five years,” Brown said.