Stephens Co. Schools Still Trying to Clear Up Financial Picture

Stephens County School System staff are continuing work to try to figure out the system’s exact financial position.

The Stephens County Board of Education received an update at its work session on Thursday.

Stephens County School Superintendent Bryan Dorsey said that staff continues to work on figuring out how much, if any, remains in the school system’s fund balance.

Dorsey said the school system cannot move forward on a Fiscal Year 2015 budget plan until it knows that fund balance number.

The Board of Education did receive a tentative Fiscal Year 2015 budget worksheet Thursday that shows a projected deficit of nearly $1.4 million.

However, Dorsey said that deficit would only grow if the numbers came back and showed that the school system’s fund balance was already in the hole.

“If we were acting today and were going to be conservative, we would probably have to go somewhere to dealing with around $3 million worth of reductions or revenue increases,” said Dorsey. “It is almost assured that we are going to deal with $1.5 million in budget decisions and I am not going to be surprised if it did get up to $3 (million).”

Dorsey said that tentative Fiscal Year 2015 budget worksheet also assumed a 100 percent local property tax collection rate, which school officials agreed was unrealistic.

However, Dorsey pointed out that reducing that collection rate only grows the gap between expenses and revenues beyond the already projected $1.4 million and makes decisions tougher and necessary quicker.

School board member Tony Crunkleton said they need to be realistic about the budget situation.

“We might as well face the music now,” said Crunkleton. “We need to know where we stand, whatever it is, and take care of it.”

Dorsey said that the school system could raise its millage rate up to 1.6 mills before capping out at 20 mills.

That would bring in several hundred thousand dollars in revenue depending on the collection rate.

He said he has also looked at numerous cost cutting measures.

“We have done some estimates on thingis like what do we save with a day and right now we are estimating we would save about $150,000 a day to remove (a day) from the calendar,” said Dorsey. “That is just a rough estimate.”

Dorsey also said he is trying to look at reducing some positions and collapsing some.

“Basically, unless we need it and have to have it for compliance or because there are more kids than we can get in a classroom, we are just holding off on some positions,” said Dorsey. “I am hopeful that if we did get to a better class size as far as filling things we had to and not filling things you would like to, we might could come up with about $750,000 without making drastic changes.”

Dorsey said that if the school system’s total deficit stays close to $1.5 million for Fiscal Year 2015, it could be managed by getting a little tighter and avoiding a major calendar adjustment.

However, he said if that deficit grows more towards $3 million, the decisions will be more dramatic and more painful.

In other news related to the school system’s finances, Dorsey said that the school system does not expect to have a written report on its Fiscal Year 2013 audit from the state until possibly the end of July.

The school system’s financial concerns first came out last month when Dorsey reported to the board that school system staff had discovered an accounting error of approximately $1.6 million.

According to Dorsey, the school board thought it started Fiscal Year 2013 with around $800,000 in reserve funds, but in reality was facing an $800,000 deficit to start Fiscal Year 2013 instead.