County BOE approves FY 2020 budget

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The Walker County Board of Education has approved a budget that allows for purchasing new school buses and a roof for Parrish Elementary School.

Chief School Financial Officer John Skalnik presented the fiscal year 2020 budget on Thursday. 

He said some key funding sources have allowed the school board to maintain an excess one-month operating reserve and fund some capital projects.

As previously reported, the school board received nearly $2 million through the state Education Trust Fund's Advancement and Technology Fund that recently allowed for $900,000 to be spent on school buses and a $600,000 expenditure for a new roof at Parrish Elementary School that will be installed next year. The school board also used the funding to pay $500,000 in insurance needs.

Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood reminded the board during Thursday's meeting that the money was earmarked by the state to be used for specific needs and could not be used for personnel costs. It also had to be spent within one year.   

Skalnik said the school board also received money from the Walker County Commission. Months ago, the Daily Mountain Eagle reported that state auditors had discovered the Walker County Commission had wrongly kept fees for collecting and distributing sales/use tax revenue that both the city and county school boards should have received. The Commission was later ordered to pay the money back to both school systems.

In a much broader discussion of the 2020 budget, Skalnik said the school board has budgeted just over $94.1 million in total revenues — an uptick from last year due to the state pay raise increase for teachers.

Despite an increase in state revenue, Skalnik said the school system still lost state funded teaching units, based on a drop in enrollment. Hagood told the Daily Mountain Eagle in August that since 2011, Walker County Schools has lost 1,177 students — an average of 131 students each year.

The school system is estimated to fund roughly 45 local teaching units in 2020.  

"If that trend continues with a loss of enrollment, we've got to make the necessary adjustments with those local units," Hagood said. "We have to be responsible in making these adjustments in moving forward."

Skalnik added, "Those units are paid for with our local tax dollars that are precious when it comes to making choices about where we spend money."

The school board's estimated total expenditures in all funds for 2020 rest at just over $93.7 million. General fund expenditures of $75.5 million are slightly more than revenues, however, which are budgeted at $74 million.   

"There's a little bit of a mismatch, and it's just timing. In the current year, we were given $1.9 of ETF money for advancement and technology. It came in this year, we'll spend it next year," Skalnik said. "That's why you see $75 million being spent out of the general fund and we have about $74 million in revenue. In essence, we're spending some of last year's money in the coming year."

In other business, the school board:

• approved a five-year capital plan which will be detailed in an upcoming edition of the Daily Mountain Eagle.

• congratulated Valley Jr. High School Coach Amy Hulsey on securing a number of grants for the school. Teacher Gunter Wisdom of Cordova High School was also recognized for securing an Alabama Power Good Roots grant to plant trees at Cordova High.

• recognized Bankhead Middle School for having the highest attendance rate of any county school in August.

• approved to ratify an agreement with the Raising Arrows After School Meal Program that provides nourishment for students in need. 

"I would like to comment on how incredible this organization is. I don't know how they do what they do, but we really appreciate it," Hagood said.

• approved an agreement with Playsafe for sports medicine services.

• approved Brett Walton and Miranda Moore as volunteer coaches at Oakman Middle School and Curry High School, respectively.