Pocahontas School Superintendent – 98% of Board of Ed Budget is for Salaries
In this first part of Pocahontas School Superintendent’s radio report, Mr. Beam talks about the state of the School System’s budget. He says that School Treasurer Sherry Radcliff is still closing out the FY 2015 -2016 budget.
“On June 30th she has to have the budget finished as far as what money we have to carry over” said Beam. “I know the Board’s been asking her where we are –if we’re going to end up in the red or the black at the end of the (fiscal) year. Right now it’s kind of touch and go. It’s going to be close either way. The problem is (as) with a lot of school systems, we have a lot of needs and we have little money to take care of the needs. Our budget is about 98% for salaries, so 2% of 11 or 12 million dollars is not a lot of money to run a school system.”
And the cost of salaries is one area that local school systems have little or no control over. The largest part of that salary expense -Teachers salaries – is determined by the State, not by the County. And the salary costs rise even without hiring additional staff, as Beam explains.
“As our employees get more experienced and they get more certifications, then their salary increases” Beam pointed out. “We’re not getting any more money from the state than in the past –actually we get less or pretty close to equal to. So anytime you have expenses going up and income going down or staying the same, you’re going in the wrong direction. So our budget is a concern I know. I do the Federal budgets and in the past I’ve carried over 30 to 35 thousand dollars a year in those budgets to start the next year out with. And this year I’m going to be starting out with maybe a couple of thousand dollars because I had to use a lot of the money I had allocated for other things to help with our Substitute situation. Because we had so many employees missing work and the State doesn’t give us enough to cover the cost of the Subs, and the County doesn’t have any money to pay the Subs, so I had to use some of my Federal dollars to pay for some of the Subs costs because we just don’t have enough money in our accounts to do that. They only allocated us so much money and when it’s gone you still have to figure a way to still pay people when they work. And so we get less and less to carry over and start the next year with. It’s like putting money in the bank at home. You got a little bit aside for a rainy day. It’s raining pretty hard right now –we’re having a hard time getting through, but we are doing the best we can. And at the end of June or early July, Sherry will give an update to the Board on how we actually finished the year. Hopefully we’ll still be in the black.”
What’s the outlook for next year’s budget?
“As you know, the Legislature is still trying to pass a budget” said Beam. “Until they make a final decision on budget and let us know if they are going to make any more cuts to Education, it’s hard. Right now we are less than one position over what the state pays us for our teachers, so we’re OK on that part. The part we always struggle with is the service personnel. We’re like 11 positions –something like that- over in service personnel, which means those salaries have to be paid directly out of our county budget –up and above of our 98% which goes to our budget now. So, any cuts the State makes in education budgets hurts us, like it does all counties. I’m sure you’ve read Boone County is trying to get the State to give them 2 million dollars just to make their books balance at the end of the year. All counties have that issue; nobody has the extra money floating around. So our budget is pretty much in Limbo, we are making preemptive decisions based on the fact that the budget may not be what we want it to be. Little things that we are trying to do, as far as positions go, contracted positions –we have Academic Interventionists, we have Parent Involvement Coordinators – and we’ve cut back on those budgets and paying those people less money. And we can do that with contracted positions. Just anywhere we can find that we can try and save money, we’re trying to do that. And I think it is real important for the citizens to understand that we’re not out here exorbitantly spending money.”
In the next part of Mr. Beam’s report to the citizens, he talks more about the budget and other issues faced by the Pocahontas County Schools.