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School board OKs $97M budget
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The Effingham County Board of Education approved its budget for the next fiscal year, after a couple of tweaks, at its meeting Thursday night.

In approving a spending plan of $97 million, the school board also approved a rollback millage rate of 15.991. The school system is expecting to take in revenues of $94.2 million, and the difference will be made up from the system’s fund balance. Even with the use of $2.8 million in fund balance, the fund balance is projected to grow from its current level of nearly $10.5 million.

“We still project our fund balance to be $11 million,” Superintendent Randy Shearouse said.

The budget includes 3 percent raises for employees and a 5 percent raise for non-certified employees for the second straight year.
In addition to raises and step raises for employees, the school system will add a teacher at each of four elementary schools, three Reading Recovery positions, nine special education teachers, 10 teachers at the soon-to-open STEM academy at the Effingham College and Career Academy, one AP teacher at the ECCA and seven additional teachers at each of the two high schools. Also in the budget are pay adjustments for data clerks, secretaries, and maintenance, technology and coordinator positions.

Also in the budget are increases for high school assistant football coach supplements and raises for office assistants at each high schools.

School board members planned to add two coaches at each middle school but instead will increase the supplement pool for coaches at each of the three middle schools by $5,000.

“I’ve got to harp on my coaches again,” said board member Beth Helmly. “I know they don’t have as many games and they don’t have as long a season. I don’t think that’s too much to ask to give them a little extra money. You want high caliber people but sometimes you just need a warm body.”

Said board member Robert Grant: “The No. 1 complaint I’ve gotten this year is middle school athletics.”

Helmly offered a motion to give each middle school $10,000 to disburse among its coaches, but it didn’t pass. Board Chairman Lamar Allen suggested giving the middle schools $5,000 each to spread among its coaching staffs as the administrations see fit and nix the two additional coaching spots at each middle school.

“I’ve been wanting to do something for years,” board member Troy Alford said of compensation for middle school coaches. “My only concern is where is this money going to come from? This thing can go on and on and on.”

Of the $94.3 million the school system expects to bring in for revenue, $64.1 million will come from the state. Local sources are expected to provide nearly $28.7 million in funding. Local property taxes are expected to bring in $25.2 million, up from $24.7 million for the current fiscal year. The title and ad valorem taxes are projected to account for $1.8 million, up from $1.5 million, but the payments in lieu of taxes are expected to decline to $1.65 million, down from $1.75 million.

“The local number seems to fluctuate,” Shearouse said. “We passed our goal of what we planned to collect. Sometimes that number can be a moving target. For the last few years we’ve collected more than we projected.”

The education equalization grant is projected to come in at $7 million, up from just under $6 million. The state’s quality basic education formula will provide the system with $57.1 million, up from $54 million.

“We talked about the good news for equalization grants,” Shearouse said. “Total QBE earnings are up quite a bit.”

The school system’s revenues were pegged at $88.9 million for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.