JACKSONVILLE — City school leaders Thursday approved a budget of approximately $12.1 million with a $290,513 deficit for fiscal 2017.

The Jacksonville Board of Education added more cuts and bumped up projected revenue to reduce a $481,000 deficit that was in a budget members rejected last week. The board plans to draw from the school system’s reserves to balance the budget.

The budget passed with a 3-2 vote during a called board meeting Thursday. Board members Stephen Smith, Michael Poe and Emily Sims approved the budget. Board members David Glass and Kelly Pearce voted against it.

“We’ve been working diligently for a way to decrease expenditures or increase revenues and we’re hoping to continue expenditure reductions,” said Superintendent Mark Petersen. “Certainly it’s good to get to a zero balanced budget and hopefully next year, we’ll be able to get that done.”

The nearly $60,000 in cuts include ending a $6,000 contract for electrical system monitoring of the old Kitty Stone Elementary. The budget also eliminated the purchase of three buses from Calhoun County for $12,000 for extracurricular activities. Money for board travel expenses and training class fees was reduced by $5,000 in the budget.

The more than $140,000 in additional revenue came mainly from higher sales tax collection projections.

“We were being very conservative on our projections earlier,” Petersen said of sales tax revenue.

Had the board not approved the budget Thursday, it would have risked not submitting the document to the state by the Oct. 1 deadline as required by law. Had that happened, the school system wouldn’t have received state money for October.

Poe said he supported the budget because it includes a deficit reduction.

“I realize this is not a modification or change that will balance the budget, but it’s a move in the right direction,” Poe said. “This certainly is much better than what we had.”  

The board has voted for budgets with deficits the last three years, dipping into the system’s reserves to cover the difference. The system has enough money in reserve to cover the deficit this year.

Petersen noted that when the budget process started, the deficit was more than $746,000, but was reduced, mainly through attrition of some employees. Petersen has said the deficits the last few years were due to an enrollment decrease even as school employment remained the same. Fewer students means less state funding.

Pearce said she wouldn’t support the budget because it didn’t increase supplement pay for coaches to at least the state average. The budget did include slight supplement increases — an extra $300 a year for head coaches and an extra $150 a year for assistant coaches. Pearce said the increase is something she had been pushing for years.

Sims said the modest supplement pay increase included in the budget was a good start.

“It shows them that yes, we’d like to give you more, but this is a step in the right direction,” Sims said.

Glass said he was unsatisfied with the coach supplement pay increase, but also with the budgeting process in general. Glass said the board should have received more information on the proposed budget earlier in the summer.

“I’m not too hung up on the numbers, I’m hung up on the process,” Glass said. “I don’t feel like the process is changing.”

Petersen said he’s been in talks with staff the past week to improve the budgeting process for the board next year.

 

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.