Board of Ed. approves $99.1M budget

Troup County Board of Education on Thursday approved its $99,196,194 budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The budget shows about a $4.2 million increase over last year, attributed to less being money cut from the state’s austerity funding to the local school system, according to school system officials.

The budget currently shows a deficit of about $750,000 between expenses and revenue, which would come from the school system’s reserve. School system CFO Byron Jones said that the budget does not reflect the one-time revenue of $1 million expected this summer from the sale of the former West Side Magnet School building to LaGrange College, which would offset the deficit.

Jones and school system Superintendent Cole Pugh previously noted that part of the state funds the school system has received are earmarked for additional insurance increases and payments into teacher retirement funds. The system will eliminate furlough days for employees and move forward on pay step increases for eligible employees, which is expected to use $1 million for each request.

Other use of funds will go toward restoring positions and training cut from the system in recent years. Included is adding an estimated $703,000 for additional elementary staff, $250,000 for additional middle and high school staff and $238,100 to staff development for training teachers and staff. Also, about $171,598 would go toward restoring full-time employees who have been cut to 35 hours per week to 40-hour work weeks.

The Board of Education also on Thursday set three public hearings for its property tax millage rate. The board has not announced any plans to increase the millage rate, but would still be required to host hearings if it chooses not to roll back the rate due to increases in property tax revenue.

The millage rate public hearing dates are:

• July 9, 10 a.m. at Hogansville Elementary School, 611 E. Main St.

• July 9, 6 p.m. at West Point Elementary School, 1701 E. 12th St.

• July 16, 6:30 p.m. at the Administrative Services Center, 100 N. Davis Road, building C.

The board is set to approve its millage rate during a meeting to follow immediately after the July 16 hearing.

Also Thursday, Board of Education members approved moving forward with a plan to allow students at three elementary schools to receive free meals starting in the upcoming school year.

Offered by the USDA, the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP, provides an alternative approach for offering school meals to local educational agencies and schools in low-income areas, instead of collecting individual applications for free and reduced price meals, according to the USDA website.

Berta Weathersbee, Ethel W. Kight and Whitesville Road elementary schools will offer free lunches under CEP for four years. Those three schools are eligible under the CEP formula because of the percentage of students at the schools who currently receive free and reduced lunch, said John Radcliffe, school system assistant superintendent of maintenance and operations. Elementary schools currently do not charge for breakfasts.

Based on information provided by Radcliffe, the percentage of students who received free lunches the past year are 91.7 percent at Whitesville Road, 92.5 percent at Berta Weathersbee and 81 percent at Ethel Kight. That does not include the amount who received reduced-cost lunches.

The federal government actually reimburses local school systems more for free and reduced lunches, where paid lunches actually lose money, said Radcliffe and Byron Jones, school system chief financial officer. With the CEP, the school system would lose an estimated $62,227.60 in revenue up front from students not paying, but anticipated to make at least $14,000 more than the loss at the end of the year from federal reimbursements. This would be from the anticipated increase in participation in school lunch and breakfast, on which the USDA bases its funding allocations – even on unpaid meals.

The school system also would not need to process applications for students qualifying for free or reduced meals, since all students would receive the free meals, which would save money, Radcliffe noted. The provision also allows the school system to opt out if it would potentially lose money, he said.

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