June 14, 2014 10:51:20 PM
The Columbus Municipal School District's proposed budget for the 2014-2015 school years is more than $100,000 less than its budget last year.
Interim superintendent Edna McGill and chief financial officer Tammy McGarr presented a draft of the budget proposal to school board members Friday during a special meeting of the board.
According to the draft, CMSD officials anticipate needing $13,114,595 to operate the school for the 2014-2015 school year. For the 2013-2014 school year, the board asked for $13,233,162.
The difference in the requests comes from the total ad valorem tax request debt service. For the 2013-2014 school year, the request was $3,302,139. For the 2014-2015 school year, the request is $2,919,063. McGarr did note the proposed budget is a draft and is subject to change.
During the meeting, McGarr asked the board to again consider approving a company for the district's employee cafeteria plan. The district's current provider, Employee Benefit Concepts, is going out of business. McGarr is recommending American Fidelity as the district's new provider. American Fidelity currently is under contract with 124 of the state's 152 districts.
The cafeteria plan is similar to a flexible spending account and allows employees to tax shelter their insurance payments and avoid paying payroll taxes, McGarr said. She added that a cafeteria plan will save both the employees and the district money. Without one in place, the district and the employees will lose money.
"If we do not have a cafeteria plan in place Sept.1 when our current cafeteria plan goes out, then it will cost the district approximately $40,000 every year in payroll taxes and an employee's paycheck...would go down about $48 a month," McGarr said. "So that's about $579 a year that the employee would lose. It would be a disadvantage to the employees as well as the district if we do not have a cafeteria plan."
While the current plan doesn't expire until Sept. 1, McGarr said a new company should have already been in place.
"They've got to come in and do an open enrollment with all of our employees and get them signed up so that it goes forward just as it's been going," she said. "It's very important that this get approved soon. It should have already been approved. It should have been approved month before last when I brought it to the board."
McGarr's plea during Friday's meeting was the fourth time since April she's asked the board to make a decision on the cafeteria plan. The board took no action Friday but has vetoed American Fidelity three times before, most recently during Monday night's meeting. The motion died 3-2 with board members Jason Spears and Glenn Lautzenhiser in favor and board members Angela Verdell, Currie Fisher and Greg Lewis against. The board offered no explanation for their decision.
Benefit Administration Services and Voluntary Benefits Services are the other two contenders. McGarr said Benefit Admiration Services handles one other district in the state and has only been doing so since March. Voluntary Benefit Services has no districts under contract, McGarr said.
Friday, McGarr again asked the board to choose American Fidelity.
"If American Fidelity is good enough for 124 school districts, why would they not be good enough for us?" she asked.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
1. Mayor: Foul language fouling up restaurant tax conversation COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Restaurant tax: Mayor rejects LINK proposal dividing revenue COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. Assistant superintendent leaving school district for Quitman STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY