SmartFu­sion seems any­thing but Soft­ware glitches ham­per school bud­get prepa­ra­tions

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - By Mike O’Neal

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...

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