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News Board of Education talks budget

During the July meeting of the Macon County Board of Education, the board voted to approve $97,000 from the school's capital outlay budget to fund some much needed upgrades to schools within the district.

Among renovations projects to get under way this school year are overall renovations to Union Academy that total $20,000. The renovations include basic improvements that are intended to bring the school to the same functioning level as other school sites in the districts. The board also allocated $20,000 of the $97,000 to be used to finish upgrading the windows at Nantahala. As funding has allowed over the years, outdated windows have been replaced at Nantahala so the board decided to fully fund that project so it can be completed.

The board also designated $20,000 from the capital outlay fund to go toward a complete upgrade to the bell/clock system at Macon Middle School. The upgrade will allow the school to be more effective and operate more efficiently. $25,000 of the $97,000 was designated to fund custodial equipment for the new Iotla Valley School. In partnership with the county, the new school site is on track to be opened by the Aug. 9 start date. The board also allocated $12,000 for a mower at Iotla Valley.According to Macon County Schools Finance Director Angie Cook, Macon County received $256,000 from the county for school improvements across the district. After completing the projects and supplying equipment for the new school, Cook said that the school system will have $159,000 in the capital outlay fund for the remainder of the year.

Overall, Macon County commissioners approved $6,911,000 in general operating expenses for the 2012-13 year. According to Cook, that is the same amount that the schools had received up until two years ago when it was reduced to $6,705,750. “This was our appropriation each year for the past two years so we are grateful to have that level of funding restored to the $6,911,000,” said Cook. “Also, the county had approved to allocate $1.5 million for the upgrading of technology throughout Macon County schools.”

Macon County's state allocation

For the past several years, Macon County has received a state allocation for funding for the budget and then has been asked to return a discretionary reversion of some amount. This year, Macon County was mandated to return $1,064,424 back to the state, which is comparable to last year's reversion of $1.26 million.

In order to account for the $1.06 million loss, Cook has to rearrange federal and local dollars in order to avoid laying off employees or eliminating programs. “We are trading in 18 teacher positions which will give us $1,010,862 and the additional $53,562 will come from teacher assistant funding,” said Cook. “We will pick these positions up from local and/or federal funds.”

Originally when planning for this year's budget, Cook anticipated an increase in the reversion and budget for a $1.4 million shortfall. Seeing a reduction in the reversion, plus the 1.2 percent increase included in the state budget for all state employees, has lightened the burden for Macon County for now.

According to Sen. Jim Davis (R-50), by next year, there will be no reversion at all. “I anticipate the reversion will go away completely by next year,” he said. “It needs to go away in my opinion and we are working toward that; it was reduced this year.”

Davis pointed out that although local districts will not be receiving as much federal stimulus dollars this year, the state allotment is actually $260 million more than last year. “We have spent more in the last two years for education that in the previous two years,” said Davis. “In addition to a 1.2 percent raise for teachers, we have invested $260 million more state dollars for K-12 education.”

“We were glad that we were able to get the raise to teachers and all state employees and even secure a 1.2 percent cost of living adjustment for state retirees,” said Davis. “And we were able to do that within the confines of no tax increases and still be able to produce a balanced budget.”

The raise that the General Assembly approved last month marks the first raise that teachers have received in four years.


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