BOE has first budget hearing
by By Daniel Gaddy
Sep 07, 2011 | 1355 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
By DANIEL GADDY

Daily Mountain Eagle

Financial officers presented to the Walker County Board of Education Tuesday a budget for the upcoming year, and education officials say the system is headed toward financial stability.

Margaret Scurlock, custodian of funds for the school district, said the Board of Education will likely end the 2012 fiscal year with a general fund balance of approximately $1.5 million.

In August, Scurlock gave a financial report to the board that projected this year's ending balance to be around $240,000 in the negative. However, she said the school district now looks to finish the fiscal year by breaking even.

The Walker County School System's general fund balance fell from $3.6 million in 2008 fiscal year to $1.2 million in the negative in 2010.

Scurlock said the Board of Education did a lot of work to get the school district into its current financial state.

Superintendent Jason Adkins said the financial gains have been possible because of tough decisions made by board members, who should be commended for their "intestinal fortitude."

"What we're trying to do is ensure some stability so progress can be made," he said.

Adkins said the Board of Education cut $6 million in salary expenses compared to the last fiscal year.

Much of that, he said, came from a reduction of 50 percent of the central office staff. According to the financial report, financial officers expect the number of employees to drop from 1,099 to 1,002 compared to the previous fiscal year. Fifty-nine of those will be professional employees and 38 will be support personnel.

The Walker County Schools' total revenues for the 2012 fiscal year will be $81 million, compared to $88 million for the previous year. Much of the drop, Scurlock said, was caused by the end of federal funding programs like the stimulus package. The previous fiscal year had nearly $5.5 million in federal dollars that the 2012 budget will not.

According to the financial report given Tuesday, the local school district will likely spend $79 million in 2012, compared to $93 million for the previous fiscal year.

Scurlock said much of that reduction was due to workers finishing up construction on Oakman Elementary/Middle School this year.

With the ending fund balance of $1.5 million, the Walker County School System will be $3.5 million short of its one-month operating reserve mandated by the state. Also, the school district's debt services will be at $2.5 million for 2012 fiscal year compared to $2.4 million for the previous year.

Adkins said the board will continue to work toward building back the school district's funds.

"This isn't a one and done situation," he said. "It's a philosophy -- it's a practical application of principals that will lead us to a financially secure system."

The Board of Education will have a second budget hearing during its meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8, in the Carl Elliott Building in Jasper.