By Natalie Simms
Options for keeping the Floyd County School System’s budget balanced was the focus on Saturday’s Board of Education work session at the superintendent’s office. Board Chair Tony Daniel says they discussed many option for keeping fiscal year 2020’s budget balanced and looking ahead long-term to the next five years.
“We spent majority of our time talking about the budget,” he says. “We didn’t decide anything, but talked about various options that we need to explore to keep the budget balanced. With the anticipated closing of Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond, that will be a big hit to the tax digest so we need to have a plan in place.”
It’s estimated Floyd Schools will see a $3 million annual reduction in school tax revenue when Plant Hammond closes. The school system needs $7 million a month to operate.
“Our superintendent has done a fantastic job of maintaining the budget. Our system is strong and we are working to keep it that way, but we have lots of things coming in the future including increase to TRS (Teacher Retirement System) over 21 percent, insurance costs going up and the governor gave teachers a $3,000 raise, so we’d like to give classified staff a raise, too. There is a lot coming and we’ve got to stay on top of it,” says Daniel.
In addition, school enrollment numbers continue to decrease. Daniel says numbers have been declining for the last 10 years. Floyd Schools currently has just over 9,500 students enrolled.
“We lose funding from the state when students are not in the seats,” he says. “And who knows what will happen with the economy. We expect the best, but we have to plan for the worst.”
The board discussed several options including options for grants and other funding opportunities. Another option mentioned in the past has been school consolidation, but officials are adamant about not adjusting the school “zones” currently in place for the Armuchee, Coosa, Model and Pepperell communities. McHenry is scheduled to close in May at the end of this school year but no other closings have been discussed.
“We have several options to review and nothing has been decided yet or voted on. We will get through the end of the school year and graduations and probably have another work session in July to have some serious discussions about what steps to take,” says Daniel.
He did note that the school system is ending the year in strong financial standing.
“We will end the year with a hefty fund balance, which is great. We like to have $11 million as our projected fund balance at the end of June to give us enough to get through until September and October when the tax money starts coming in,” says Daniel.