School board gets first look at budget plan

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Central office staff presented the Person County Board of Education on Monday with a $10.5 million local operating budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year, calling for expenditures of 10.9 percent more than the current year.

More than half of the $949,000 increase is set aside to deal with added personnel costs.

Much of the increase in the budget is centered around increased personnel costs, from hikes in insurance rates and increased exposure for the employees retirement system.

The spending plan also called for increases to local supplements for principals, and both certified and classified personnel.

Over the course of the last five years there has been a rise in insurance prices.

As the upcoming school year approaches it’s been estimated health insurance will go up $240 a person for the year.

“Each year the cost of insurance is reevaluated. It has been going up by 4 or 5 percent,” said PCS Finance Director Julie Masten.

“We did receive additional funding this year in the local budget. The three years prior we remained flat, but at the same time the cost of health insurance and retirement was increasing so if we don’t get an increase in our local budget or federal budget we have to find the funds to cover that,” said Masten.

Masten says in the 12 years that she has been working with the school system insurance prices have nearly tripled their costs.

The budget proposal put before school board members on Monday calls for an $10,000 increase in the school system’s share of employee insurance.

In previous years, services would be reduced or positions eliminated in order to help pay for health insurance and retirement plans.

Each employee can put as much as 6 percent of their pay into their retirement accounts. The county provides a match. The remaining portion of that increase is paid to the state to help pay for current retirees.

The budget proposal projects an increase of $98,000 in retirement expenses for the school system next year.

Although the personnel costs are projected to increase, Masten says enrollment projections are expected to fall.

According Masten enrollment for the rising school year is projected to decrease by 100 students.

The decline in enrollment could possibly bring about a reduction of staff throughout the county.

“It has gone down almost 100 kids so that is equivalent to about four teachers,” said Masten.

Masten says the projected growth over the course of the next five to 10 years should remain flat.

“I believe the population is just declining across the county in that age range. We have had some kids that have moved to the charter schools, but that hasn’t been a huge increase,” said Masten.

School system leaders are being asked to prepare and approve budgets despite a number of unknowns.

“It’s really interesting because we have to start this budget process now. It has been as late as September before we receive a final state budget so we’re kind of operating in the dark,” said Masten.

School board members must have a written and completed budget request for the county commissioners by May 15.

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