0

School system uses higher revenues to offset funding cuts

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

While many public institutions, such as Georgia's universities, are having to trim budgets because of reduced funding, Clayton County Public Schools are bolstered by increased property taxes and rental car revenues.

The school system anticipated a $40 million balance when the Fiscal Year 2009 budget was approved in June. District Spokesman Charles White said it actually looks to be over $50 million following the higher-than-projected revenues.

"We're very fortunate to have that balance," said White. "We have it because we estimate revenues conservatively, and plan on spending conservatively when we put together our budget."

The Clayton County Board of Education will meet tonight at 6:30 p.m., for its monthly work session at the district's Central Administration Complex, 1058 Fifth Ave., Jonesboro.

School system officials will ask their board to consider spending the extra revenues in three areas: Offsetting state austerity cuts to Quality Basic Education (QBE), offsetting federal funding cuts to special education, and funding some recommendations from a recent forensic audit of the school district.

The board will not vote on the proposal until the Nov. 3 business meeting.

Clayton Schools received an austerity cut of $2.7 million this fiscal year. It brought the total state cuts up to $57.2 million since Fiscal Year 2002. Meanwhile, overall federal funding and special revenue cuts totaled $1.2 million from last year to this year.

The forensic audit was conducted to help the district meet one of the mandates from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The system has to implement the auditor's recommendations to fully complete this mandate.

District officials would like to use some of the extra revenues to hire a director of internal audits, and a purchasing card coordinator, said White. The creation of those positions is urged in the forensic audit.

White said the school system is not taking the increased revenues lightly. Many of the rental car agencies at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will move from Clayton County, into a Consolidated Rental Car (CONRAC) facility in Fulton County. As a result, the school system will lose a chunk of the rental car revenues it currently enjoys.

White also said the school system does not know the impact of home foreclosures, and the district's accreditation loss will have on the county's economy and tax revenues. "We probably are going to take a long look at the budget to determine how we can be as economical as possible, so we can remain good stewards of the taxpayers' money," said White. "We're going to have to be frugal."

The school board will review the proposed budget development and planning calendar at the work session. Additionally, board members will hear an update on the bidding process for banking services; a resolution to make changes to the districts Five-Year Facilities Plan; a bid to build the new Morrow Middle School, and proposed changes to policies dealing with public participation, personnel hiring, and "promotion, placement and retention."