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BOE holds budget hearing

By By Lisa Tindell
The Escambia County School Board held a budget hearing yesterday to discuss the budget for the 2006-2007 school year. The budget remains in a proposed state pending a vote to be held by board members at a regular meeting scheduled for Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
The budget for the upcoming year has been proposed at $31,357,334.
"About 90 percent of our budget is made up of salaries," said Julie Madden, chief school finance officer with the ECBE. "The budget also has to consider that health insurance costs are going up this year. With those costs increasing, we will certainly see the cost in benefits increase as well."
Madden indicated that fringe benefits include health insurance, retirement benefits, social security, Medicare and unemployment compensation. Health insurance was the biggest change in those benefits with just under $600 per employee increase.
The county system is not planning any large expenditure under the new proposed budget, said Billy Hines, Superintendent.
"We won't be building any buildings this year," Hines said. "Our capital projects this year will include some large ticket improvements such as air conditioning and electrical room work as well as instructional technology equipment."
Each year the Federal government allocates dollars to be used in the schools based on student attendance. The calculation of those funds made available to each system has changed this year, which could cause funding to see a slight rise.
"Usually funding is based on student attendance during the first forty days of the school year," Hines said. "This year they are going to allow us to use the attendance records beginning the Tuesday following Labor Day for 20 days. I think that will make it better for our funding."
Hines said that some students who transfer from other schools or who may have been out of town during the first few days of the school year cause the numbers to appear deflated during that time.
The system is excited about have a full 17 mills in tax revenues coming into the coffers this year, Madden said.
"We are excited that have the 10 mill county ad valorem tax revenues this year," Madden said. "That revenue coupled with the 4 mill property tax and our oil severance taxes, has put us up where we like to be. This is the first year we were able to budget using those funds. It has certainly made our job a little easier."
The budget covers costs involved in all county schools and other cost centers, Hines said.
"We cover each school as well as our transportation, administrative offices, Turtle Point, the career-tech training center, alternative school and other areas as well," Hines said. "We certainly have a lot to cover with our funding from federal, state and local monies."
In the budget, the system receives $24,980,144 in state revenues; $18,044 in federal revenues and $6,589,668 in local funds bringing the total revenues to just over $3.5 million dollars.
In the expenditures column the county has planned to disperse those revenues as follows: $18,302,504 to instructional services (salaries, etc.); $4,894,829 to instructional support (class aides, etc.); $2,886,905 to operations and maintenance; $3,545,089 in auxiliary services; $1,335,929 to general administrative services; $183,709 to debt services (repayment on a bond issue for W.S. Neal and Escambia County Middle Schools); and $208,369 in other expenditures.
If the current proposed budget passes and is executed as planned, the ECBE will end the fiscal year with just over $2.8 million dollars. The system is required to maintain just over $2 million in their coffers by the State Board of Education, Madden said.
The final public budget hearing will be presented on Thursday, Aug. 10 at 4 p.m. in the County boardroom with a vote by the board members scheduled during the 4:30 p.m. meeting on the same day.