06/03/05 — County wants money details from schools

View Archive

County wants money details from schools

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on June 3, 2005 2:38 PM

County commissioners are waiting for an accounting of the school's fund balance to help them make budget decisions.

County Manager Lee Smith told commissioners earlier this week he had requested a full analysis of the school system's fund balance, and was waiting for the information.

Wayne County Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Taylor said he was having his finance officer put together the information.

The subject came up during one of the commissioners' budget meetings earlier this week as the board is working to raise the property tax rate by 10 cents.

The county is proposing to keep the schools' operational budget the same as last year, but are considering putting aside 5 percent, $800,000, for future school projects.

Smith said Taylor said the schools were going to have to use $1 million of their fund balance, which would dip them below their required amount.

"Two million dollars is a comfortable reserve for the school system," Smith said. "Steve said they'd be below that, and I've asked for proof since they've grown their fund balance $1.5 million in the past year."

Taylor said the schools' fund balance is projected to be around $2 million by the end of June, but that the balance would be endangered if the county didn't give the district the additional 5 percent.

"This will create some problems," Taylor said. "The county committed last year that they would give us the money for teacher supplements. That was a minimum of 5 percent."

Taylor said if the county doesn't fund the additional money, the school board would have to cut something out of its budget.

The county is also still waiting for information on the schools facility plan.

Consultants have been updating the school facilities report for the past six months, and the report was expected to be completed in April. The school board doesn't want to ask commissioners for a specific amount of money until the report is finished.

Smith said the county has no idea what that facilities report will include, whether it will be $82 million, $60 million or $40 million.

Taylor said he is hoping to get the report by the end of the week, and then could forward it on to commissioners.

Commissioner Atlas Price said he was disappointed in the lack of information from the schools at this time.

"They want us to take the blame for increasing taxes, but they've spent no time educating the public or selling their needs," Price said. "I have a problem with that."

Price said that there were accountability issues at stake, and the county couldn't commit ahead of the "schools accountability."

"That gives me the biggest heartburn of all," he said.