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HCPS budget at $20m

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By Cindy DiFazio

Staff writer/photographer

For the first time in its history, the Henry County Public Schools’ budget will exceed $20 million. But, if the budget remains in its current form, the district could be operating in the red.

At a special meeting of the Henry County Board of Education on Thursday, Sept. 25, HCPS Superintendent Tim Abrams announced the milestone.

“Our budget for all funds is over $20 million for the first time,” he said. “It is $20,148,808.”

Abrams said the primary factor for the change is an increase in the beginning balance — $530,000 was rolled over from the 2007-08 budget from a surplus that normally would have been put in escrow. “We rolled money over for furnishings or whatever we need to have,” Abrams said, “to spend on the high school.”

He stressed that whatever is spent out of those dollars will be a one time, not recurring, cost. “We’ve got that safety net built in,” Abrams said.

He said that the district’s reserve is sound, and that contingency money in the general fund stands at more than $1.7 million. State law would require a minimum reserve of about $400,000.

“A minimum reserve of two percent is required by the state and five percent is preferred,” he said. “Ours is 8.9 percent.”

Payroll and benefits account for at least 79 percent of the budget every year, but will be more than 80 percent, according to Abrams.

Abrams said that expense versus revenue is not as good as it has been in previous years. “Last year was the best ever at 96.3 percent,” he said. The working budget projects expense versus revenue at 104 percent for the 2008-09 school year — meaning the district could be operating in the red. “It doesn’t look good,” Abrams said, “but we haven’t got the second month growth factor yet.”

He said traditionally there is an infusion of growth money from the state for attendance. “We need the second month’s attendance to go up,” Abrams said. “It was a bad Monday and Tuesday after the storm. I hope it doesn’t hurt us.” He said he believes attendance will still be up.

Abrams said the school budget will be tight this year. “It’s pretty much a no-frills budget,” he said.

Abrams also said professional development funds for staff suffered deep cuts. “We have hardly any money in that,” he said. Extended School Services also took a hit.

Abrams said although the system would need to tighten its belt, the budget is sound.

“It is a good budget,” he said.

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