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Board of Education approves budget


By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  The Henry County Board of Education approved a tentative fiscal year 2014 budget of $293 million – the same amount as the current fiscal year – at Monday night’s regular meeting. The final budget is scheduled for approval at the June 10 board meeting.

  While the dollar amount is unchanged, the proposed new budget would include five furlough days for most employees and six furlough days for administrators. There were no furlough days included in the 2013 budget year, which ends June 30.

School system officials cited austerity reductions in state revenue over the past decade, a drop in property tax revenue due to the economic downturn, an absence of QBE funding for technology, rising employer benefit costs (health care and retirement contributions), and transportation funding as the most significant challenges in working out the new budget.

  Property tax revenue declined $42 million from 2009-2012, while state reductions add up to more than $182 million since the 2003 fiscal year. Employer health care insurance costs for classified employees, will be $596 per employee per month in fiscal 2014 – double the cost from two years earlier – and are projected to reach $746 in fiscal 2015. System-wide, that is an increase from $4.6 million to $10 million over a three-year period.

  Pupil transportation costs have risen from $10 million to $14 million in a decade, while state funding during that time period has remained just below $2 million per year, according to school system officials.

  Because projected revenues for fiscal 2014 are just under $281 million, the system expects to use about $12 million in reserve funds to make up the shortfall.

  In addition to the furloughs, salaries for all employees are expected to be frozen for the fifth consecutive year. The budget also takes into account the recent decision to outsource custodial operations.

  While one of the ten largest school districts in the state, the Henry County School System is operating just below the state average for per-student expenditures. A comparison from fiscal 2012 shows Henry County spending $7,667 per student, while the statewide average is $8,594. The fiscal 2014 forecast is for a Henry County average of $7,358 for just under 40,000 students.



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