BOE adopts 2015 budget

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - KAYLA ROBINS krobins@cov­news.com

Even though sum­mer just be­gan, the people work­ing be­hind the school scenes are ready for next year to be­gin with a full wal­let, dol­ing out more than last year to teach­ers and other pub­lic school em­ploy­ees.

The New­ton County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion ap­proved its of­fi­cial budget for the 2014-2015 school year for all gov­ern­men­tal funds as ap­proved in the ten­ta­tive budget last month. One change was added into the adopted budget as an ad­di­tion of $200,000 in in­struc­tional ex­pen­di­tures to add one more hour to the six-hour-per­day el­e­men­tary para­pro­fes­sional work­day salaries.

The New­ton County School Sys­tem (NCSS) will be­gin the fis­cal year with a pro­jected $18,838,219 in the gen­eral fund, com­pared to $20,880,172 in FY 2014.

Peggy Bullard, NCSS busi­ness man­ager, pre­sented the budget based on an es­ti­mated tax digest of $1.904 bil­lion and a 20-mill mill­age rate. She said the New­ton County com­mis­sioner is ex­pected to re­lease fi­nal tax digest num­bers the week of June 23.

To­tal rev­enues are pro­jected to sit at $144,512,361, which is a 5.66 per­cent in­crease from last year. Ex­pen­di­tures are ex­pected to in­crease by 3.14 per­cent from last year to $145,240,113.

This in­crease in ex­pen­di­tures is at­trib­uted to an in­crease in em­ployee salaries. Teach­ers and other NCSS per­son­nel will re­ceive a two per­cent in­crease in their to­tal salary sched­ule, rather than the one per­cent, one­time pay ad­just­ment they re­ceived last year. El­i­gi­ble em­ploy­ees will also be given back one additional work­day – three fur­lough days of the orig­i­nal six now re­main -- and step in­creases.

Dur­ing the last two meet­ings in May, Bullard pre­sented four op­tions for em­ployee give­backs, with the fi­nal de­ci­sion on Tues­day evening rest­ing in the mid­dle of the spec­trum and on a higher salary in­crease than orig­i­nally bud­geted.

At the end of the year, the gen­eral fund bal­ance is ex­pected to be $18,110,467, which is 12.47 per­cent of the budget and more than the rec­om­mended seven per­cent.

The budget was ap­proved 5-0 by coun­cil mem­bers and goes into ef­fect July 1.

Safer school buses

School buses are ex­pected to get an up­grade that will make them safer and more re­li­able.

Board mem­bers ap­proved the $165,121 pur­chase of a school bus track­ing and man­age­ment soft­ware out of safety and ef­fi­ciency con­cerns and “the de­sire to lever­age tech­nol­ogy to the great­est ex­tent pos­si­ble,” ac­cord­ing to Michael Barr, di­rec­tor of sup­port ser­vices for NCSS.

“The soft­ware should be in­stalled and ready to use at the be­gin­ning of the up­com­ing 2014-2015 school year,” Barr said.

Tyler Tech­nolo­gies, the com­pany sell­ing the soft­ware, pro­vides a com­pre­hen­sive suite of prod­ucts that helps those man­ag­ing buses do so more ef­fec­tively.

“On­screen, the GPS fleet track­ing soft­ware al­lows trans­porta­tion staff to mon­i­tor buses in real time on a map, op­ti­mize routes, mon­i­tor sched­ules and re­spond to is­sues more quickly,” Barr said.

He de­scribed District Pulse, an­other prod­uct now avail­able to the school sys­tem, as an in­for­ma­tion ware­house.

“It stores date from all the soft­ware com­po­nents and al­lows ad­min­is­tra­tors to de­velop re­ports and track key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors,” Barr said. “The eTime­keeper com­po­nent is an au­to­mated, on­line time clock.”

Some spe­cific ben­e­fits of the com­pre­hen­sive soft­ware prod­ucts in­clude:

• Im­me­di­ate and ac­cu­rate bus lo­ca­tion in­for­ma­tion

• The abil­ity to ad­just routes based on ac­tual route data

• Im­me­di­ate ac­cess to route in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing lo­ca­tion of stops, stop times and speed

• The abil­ity to ac­cu­rately re­port de­par­ture and ar­rival time

• On-board di­ag­nos­tic mon­i­tor­ing, in­clud­ing low bat­tery volt­age, change in oil pres­sure and en­gine light in­di­ca­tors

• A web-based time clock to ac­cu­rately track em­ploy­ees’ work hours

“In the event a driver falls ill, is in­volved in an ac­ci­dent or is other­wise in­ca­pac­i­tated and are un­able to iden­tify their lo­ca­tion to the dis­patcher, ad­min­is­tra­tors can quickly iden­tify the pre­cise lo­ca­tion of the bus and ex­pe­dite the req­ui­site help needed,” Barr said.

Costs will be pulled from FY2015 bud­geted SPLOST funds. Upon ap­proval of the FY2016 budget, an­nual recurring costs for sup­port and main­te­nance for soft­ware and hard­ware is ex­pected to be $70,626 and will be taken from the gen­eral fund budget.

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