City, county schools approve final budgets

FCPS adviser says portion dedicated to salaries too much

By Katheran Wasson and Kevin Wheatley Published:

School boards in Frankfort and Franklin County reviewed their working budgets Monday, the final step in this year’s financial planning process.

The Franklin County Board of Education OK’d a budget with $55.7 million in projected revenues for the 2012-2013 school year – about $4.2 million less than last year.

Since reviewing a tentative budget in May, changes include $320,203 more in salaries and benefits, $271,435 more for supplies and $432,547 less in the contingency fund.

Bob Waggoner, the district’s financial adviser, cautioned that nearly 84 percent of the board’s general fund is going to pay salaries and benefits for employees.

Ideally, that number should be around 80 percent or lower, he said. The district has maintained most of its staff despite flat revenues, he said, so the percentage will continue to climb unless the board looks for places to save money.

“Moving forward, it’s an area you want to be concerned and watch because if you get much higher, its going to restrict your ability to do much more than turning the lights on and paying teachers,” he said.

The working budget includes a contingency fund of about $3.7 million – equal to 8.3 percent of the district’s total budget. The state requires at least 2 percent to be held in reserves.

In a separate action, the board voted unanimously to refinance a series of bonds purchased in 2004 for renovations at Franklin County High School.

Refinancing the bonds is projected to save the school district about $672,000 in interest over the next 12 years, said Dwight Salsbury of Ross, Sinclaire and Associates.

Meanwhile across town, the Frankfort Independent Board of Education continued developing its $8 million working budget Monday.

With revenues higher than expected, the board previously agreed to give experienced staff raises that will cost the district $50,000 in wages and benefits.

The financial outlook helped increase the district’s contingency to $305,000, up from $194,000 tentatively budgeted earlier this year, according to district figures. That’s still down from last year’s rainy day fund of more than $488,000. 

“I feel real comfortable with (the budget),” said Tena Hartley, the district’s finance director. “I don’t feel like we’ve shortened anything.”

Board member Greg Miklavcic said while the district has been forced to make cuts in recent years, he commended district staff for its handling of lighter budgets.

“Tena, Rich (Crowe, FIS superintendent), and staff have done a good job of keeping our costs low and not budgeting everything,” Miklavcic said. “It would be nice if we could not use any (contingency funds) again.”

As a whole, the $8 million budget is about $500,000 less than last year’s and down from the $11.9 million budget three years ago during the federal stimulus program.

Monday’s action was the last step in the budgeting process for local school districts. They will begin negotiating the 2013-2014 budget in January.

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