SmartFusion seems anything but Software glitches hamper school budget preparations
The Walker County Schools budget for the upcoming year seems to have no major surprises and no drama is expected when it comes before the board for adoption.
Yet nobody knows exactly what lies ahead, all because glitches in a recently installed software program are using good data to generate bad budget projections in the area of salary and benefits.
Superintendent Damon Raines had expected to present a tentative 2019 operating budget at a Tuesday, June 12, planning session.
But rather than being able to vote on a budget for presentation during the next school board meeting, the fivemember Board of Education was told the initial vote might not occur until a special called meeting, tentatively set for June 25. The school system’s budget year begins July 1.
Having previously released a two-page summary of the upcoming year’s budget, Raines reiterated that the financial situation seems healthy and stable.
Earlier this spring, Gov. Nathan Deal was able to fully fund the Georgia’s Quality Basic Education formula, the process used to dole out state education funds to each school district. This is the first time since 2002 that the formula has been fully funded — not subject to “austerity” cuts — and means nearly $10 billion of the state’s $26.2 billion budget will be earmarked for education.
The superintendent stated that revenue and expenses have each exceeded expectations, with income surpassing spending. He said about $4 million more in revenue is more than the roughly $3.7 million in expenditures.
“We feel really good about our ending fund balance for this year’s budget, “he said.
While pleased to report the system is operating in the black, Raines said there are uncertainties in crafting a 2019 budget.
“We’re just not clear on the largest percentage of the budget,” he said.
About 89 percent of the annual operating budget is dedicated to employee salaries and benefits, Raines said.
Director of Financial Services Bridgette Watts told the board members that calculating personnel costs is being skewed by SmartFusion counting fringe benefits twice, making payroll projections suspect.
“I need time to validate,” she said concerning the salary/benefit costs. “I hate to give numbers that I cannot validate.”
It was agreed that it was Walker County Schools operated 10 elementary schools, four middle schools and two high schools for 8,665 students in 2018. That enrollment figure is being used to prepare the FY2019 budget. better to wait another week than to act on inaccurate figures, and officials hope it will be possible to have a tentative budget, with more details, by Monday, June 18. That would give board members about a week to review the document prior to the called meeting.
No time was agreed on for the called meeting, but a first public hearing could be scheduled for July 10 with a second public hearing and the budget’s final adoption being set for July 16.
Though the planning meeting was abbreviated, due to there being no tentative budget to discuss, the board was able to approve a long list of contracts for services such as yearbook photography, travel, environmental and food service supplies.
Chris Jones, director of facilities and operations, provided an update on capital construction projects that are underway or soon to begin. Work on new athletic facilities — fields or auxiliary gymnasiums — at Saddle Ridge and Chattanooga Valley middle schools, Ridgeland and LaFayette high schools and a partnership with the Rock Spring Athletic Association (allowing Saddle Ridge Middle School’s softball team to have a home field until their own is build) are progressing. And construction of a new transportation center adjacent the Advancing Education Center on Osburn Road is underway.
Site preparations are nearly complete and soon construction of a new transportation center soon will begin at the Advancing Education Center on property that was once the playground for Osburn Elementary School. This is one of several capital projects...