By Kathryn Schiliro

Managing Editor

Local school system administration expects the system will spend near $26.6 million in fiscal year (FY) 2014, an expenditure projection the county Board of Education (BOE) unanimously approved for advertisement at their meeting Monday night.

This is a $494,000 decrease from last year’s budget of more than $27 million.

BOE members commented on walking the fine line between cutting costs and maintaining a quality education for the county’s children.

The overwhelming majority of the system’s costs go to direct instruction, which is primarily teachers’ and paraprofessionals’ salaries; for the upcoming fiscal year, FY14, the proposed budget for this expense is more than $18.9 million, down from FY13, when the proposed budget for direct instruction was almost $19.6 million.

The proposed costs for school administration – the salaries of principals, assistant principals, clerical staff as well as the supplies and equipment in each school’s front office – come to more than $1.7 million, a decrease of almost $22,000 from FY13. System administration, which includes the salaries of the superintendent and assistant superintendents as well as things like legal fees and professional dues, is projected to cost more than $456,000 in FY14, up $28,000 from FY13. The cost for support services – payroll, accounts payable, basically the business aspect of schools – comes to more than $298,000, and the cost for pupil services – those that serve, but don’t instruct, students: counselors, nurses, social workers, for example – comes to more than $884,000.

After direct instruction, the school system’s greatest expense is maintenance and operations – the cost of things like the custodial staff as well as utilities, supplies, groundskeeping and the like – projected at more than $1.9 million for FY14, down $25,000 from FY13.

Pupil transportation, the cost of buses and fuel, comes to a projected total of just over $1.5 million, up from FY13’s more than $1.3 million.

System administration projects FY14 revenues to total more than $25.8 million– near $13.9 million is projected to come from the state in FY14, and more than $11.6 million will come to the system in the form of local ad valorem tax, or property tax, revenue. FY14 projected revenues are more than $500,000 up from FY13’s projected revenues of $25.3 million.

To raise the ad valorem revenue, the BOE has approved for advertisement a move to the rollback millage rate of 18.213, which should levy more than $12.4 million in taxes, a rate that doesn’t include the fact that the system doesn’t expect to raise 100 percent of taxes – some people don’t pay – nor does it include the costs associated with paying the county to collect the money.

The BOE hasn’t passed an increase in the millage rate since 2006, Pam McWilliams, the system’s Director of Finance, said in a later interview.

The $19.6 million-plus decline in the county tax digest from last year is reflected in the value of a mil: one mil in FY13 came to $685,975 while one mil in FY14 comes to $682,506.

The more than $700,000 difference between proposed revenues and expenditures will be covered by the more than $1.1 million left in the system general fund after FY13. Taking this into account, the system general fund should be left with about $450,000 at the conclusion of FY14. Bear in mind, as well, that the system always keeps $5.9 million in reserves to cover costs between the start of the fiscal year in July and the start of ad valorem funds rolling in around December. If the system didn’t hold these funds in reserves, the system would have to borrow money, which, in turn, would cost taxpayers, McWilliams said.