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School system hopes to close fiscal year strong
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Slow revenue collections atop a turbulent year of cuts in state funding have left the Effingham County School System dangling in the red and hoping to make it to the black before Aug. 30.

Ron Wilson, the school system’s finance director, reported financials from May and June of this year last Wednesday at the meeting, which at the end of May showed a $1 million hole in revenue over expenditures. Ad valorem property tax collections declined in May to $454,557, but went up to $729,500 in June. This leaves approximately a 5 percent gap in collected revenue versus the budgeted revenue.

“As we continue toward our closing process, we expect those numbers to improve,” Wilson said.

Aug. 30 will close the collection window and FY2010, and fingers are crossed at the BoE office that they will collect the rest of the $26 million budget.

“A lot of these are cuts that weren’t really cuts, but lack of revenue from property taxes. We’ve lowered that amount for this year, so hopefully that will help,” said Superintendent Randy Shearouse, noting that in their general bank account, which includes bond and special revenues, “we still have a positive fund balance.”

But top-of-mind and back-of-breath for most of the officials at the meeting was an anticipated additional 4 percent cut from the state and a 2 percent cut behind that. As of now, Wilson’s information from the state indicates that this will not affect the quality basic education (QBE) funds or the equalization funds — dollars that make up for a low millage income in the system.

But Wilson pointed out that if they cut another 2 percent, that’s another $1 million-$2 million they’ll have to find or shed from their budget.

“To be honest with you, every time we turn around, the state is nipping somewhere else,” Wilson said in response to Troy Alford’s inquiry as to how much revenues have slowed since last year.

Wilson said that his department is working on obtaining $8 million in grants from the state and looked on the bright side at better than expected collections from SPLOST, bonds and other special revenue.

“If it keeps going down the way it has been going, nothing’s safe,” said Chairman Lamar Allen.

The board also approved a measure to moved $2,000 from each of the accounts for the Central Learning Center and the Marlow Learning Center, which are out of commission for this and the next school term. The $4,000 operational funds will be moved to the Effingham Career Academy, which, as a new school, had no money before.