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Surplus forecast for Fayette BoE, amid calls to restore teacher pay

Reports on the financial state of the Fayette County School System show that both revenues and expenditures are on track to end the year June 30 with a $17 million fund balance.

One-cent sales tax revenues, if maintained, could come close to reaching the $115 million ceiling.

That was the message last week at the regular meeting of the Fayette County Board of Education.

“Tax revenues are pretty strong,” Comptroller Laura Brock said of the local revenue portion of the budget. “And they’re stronger than they were last year at this time.”

Actual property tax revenue collected thus far totaled $60 million along with $2.87 million in vehicle taxes. Both figures, along with other revenue sources such as transfer and intangible taxes, put the school system on track to collect $89.5 million by the end of the school year.

The school system in the original budget showed a total of $89.3 million in local revenues and $83.8 million from the state for a total of more than $173 million.

But with the continuing recession the situation with state revenues is likely to become tenuous. Brock said school systems could see a minimum revenue decrease of 2 percent and perhaps more for the remaining school year.

The decision on the fate of any upcoming state budget cuts will take shape between January and April when the General Assembly and Governor-elect Nathan Deal take a closer look at the state economy.

As for the expenditure side of the budget, Brock said the school system through November was approximately $2 million under budget.

And though the current budget anticipated a $5 million deficit for the school year, the school system as it stands now will finish the year June 30 with a budget deficit of only $275,394.

That said, the school system began the year July 1 with a $17.2 million fund balance and is expected to end the year in essentially the same shape.

And it is that fund balance that some in the school system say should go back to employees after they experienced a 4.5 percent pay cut two years ago.

Employees last year did receive a one-time pay adjustment of 1.5 percent, but some in the school system, such as McIntosh teacher Joseph Jarrell and Fayette County High School teacher Dana Camp, maintain that the remainder should be returned to employees.

Also making Brock’s report last week was the status of the school system’s one-cent sales tax. It has been nearly a year and a half since the Fayette County School System began collecting revenues from the six-year SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) for education. Through November, the school system has collected $28.65 million in sales tax revenues.

Brock last week told school board members that revenues through November total $28,649,159. At that rate, and assuming that collections remain steady, the six-year collection period could generate close to the $115 million ceiling.

Approved by voters in November 2008, the SPLOST carries a $115 million maximum, with revenues going for technology, textbook adoption, facilities, security, transportation and debt service.

The school system through December was expected to use approximately $11.6 million of the funds collected.

A breakdown of planned SPLOST expenditures include $38 million on debt service, $47.5 million for technology and equipment, $17 million for work on existing school buildings and facilities, $10 million for the purchase of school buses and $2 million for textbooks.

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