June 29, 2013 8:54:15 PM
Sarah Fowler - [email protected]
In a 4-1 vote, the Lowndes County School Board approved the district's budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.
Board members met in a specially called meeting Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. LSCD Business Administrator Lotis Johnson has been adamant about the school board approving the budget before the new fiscal year begins on July 1. Johnson presented the proposed budget to board members last week in a specially called budget hearing. Friday afternoon's meeting was expected to be a short meeting as board members formally approved the budget.
However, board president Bobby Barksdale had to ask for a motion to approve the budget three times before he finally got a motion from board member Dr. Wes Barrett. When the motion failed to receive a second, Barksdale made the second. As is standard after a motion and a second, the matter was then eligible for discussion.
Board member Jane Kilgore asked Johnson if the proposed budget numbers were in line with the ad valorum tax figures that the district is expected to receive in July form Lowndes County Tax Assessor Greg Andrews.
"The figures in the budget right now are exactly what they are this year. I won't meet with Greg until Tuesday at 8:30 where he'll give me updated evaluation figures and updated eligibility amount," Johnson answered.
Kilgore asked, "So with the budget we've got right now, we're still 800 (thousand) and some odd negative. Is that right?"
Johnson explained to Kilgore that the fund balance was expected to change after she got the final ad valorum tax numbers from Andrews. Kilgore responded that she was not comfortable approving the budget without knowing the exact amount the schools would receive in ad valorum tax.
"I don't want to use fund balance. That's just it. I don't want to go in the hole. Us not knowing how much money we're going to get from Greg and tax payers, I don't like to do it," she said.
Johnson, who has repeatedly expressed concern over needing to approve the budget before the next fiscal year, told Kilgore, "We don't ever approve the budget knowing that."
In response, Kilgore then suggested the board amend the budget to remove one school bus. She then went through the proposed budget and said she also wanted to remove the student identification system to which board member Jacqueline Gray immediately responded with "no."
"The reason why is, I just don't want to do it until we know how much money. After we get the figures we can go back and if we see that it's in there then we can go back and amend the budget. It has nothing to do with student achievement." Kilgore said.
Speaking to Johnson, Gray said "So we can approve the budget today as you have presented it and then in the future, if we need to, we can change it, amend the budget up or down, and take out anything or put in anything?"
"Correct," Johnson said.
Gray then mentioned the board has a regularly scheduled meeting in two weeks. She proposed the board approve the budget immediately and then amend the budget in July if ad valorum numbers were lower than expected.
"We meet in two weeks. If we pass this budget as is with no changes, just pass it, and in two weeks we can pull anything off of here that we don't want," she said.
"Budgets can be amended but I don't want to go right now, and just start pulling, I don't want to start cherry picking. I would rather take them off than take them off now and try to get them back on here."
The board voted to approve the motion 4-1 with Kilgore opposed. The board's July meeting will be July 12 at the central office.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.