02/07/06 — Schools ask county to release $451,070

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Schools ask county to release $451,070

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 7, 2006 1:53 PM

The Board of Education voted Monday night to ask the Wayne County Commission to release money the commissioners held in reserve during the last round of budget negotiations.

The money would be used to offset a worrisome deficit in the school system's fund balance, school board members said.

In a separate action, board members also asked that a resolution be sent to the county commissioners expressing concerns over the inadequate fund balance reflected in the latest audit report, which was released last month.

Board member Lehman Smith proposed the request for $451,070 that commissioners have held in reserve since the county's budget was passed in June 2005.

The amount was part of the 5 percent budget increase the school board had requested last year. The commissioners originally agreed to the $801,070, but defaulted on payment, Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor said.

"For the first time ever, commissioners appropriated the 5 percent increase, and then kept it," Taylor said. The school system went on to challenge the move, initiating appeal proceedings in court, he added.

"In the end, we compromised on the 5 percent, receiving $350,000 of that," he said.

Smith said Monday that the commissioners had held the remaining amount in reserve and "said they would release it if we requested it."

He said the remainder of the appropriated money, $451,070, would benefit the school system's lagging fund balance. Taylor said it could also support such items as teacher supplements and this year's rise in fuel costs.

The entire amount, $801,070 had already been earmarked in the county's general fund for future school-related appropriations, Taylor said.

"It's designated in their budget ordinance for school purposes. (The board) is asking that they release the $451,070 that they kept," Taylor said.

At last month's board meeting, the audit report showed that there has been a steady decline to the school system's fund balance in recent years, said board memberGeorge Moye, who read the resolution. As of June 30, 2005, the undesignated fund balance was $1.6 million, he said.

"Based on the expenditures for the 2004-05 school year, the fund balance should have been $2.9 million," Moye said. It is not in the best interest of the school system to maintain less than one and one half month's worth of operation expenses on hand, he added.

"Without additional local funding from the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, the school system will not be able to maintain an adequate minimum fund balance," he said.