The Bibb County school system has a matter of weeks to close a gaping budget deficit of at least $9 million.
Ron Collier, the systems chief financial officer, said the projected shortfall for the next budget year is due entirely to outside forces and not the Macon Miracle reforms or other internal changes.
Collier said he hopes to present in the next two weeks more accurate budget numbers to school board members, who must adopt a budget by June 30. The latest deficit estimate is close to the $9.48 million figure he presented to the school board in March.
Its not yet clear how the school system will deal with the budget shortfall, though the system is searching for revenue as well as cuts, and already has tapped its financial reserves to close a budget hole in the current year.
Collier said Superintendent Romain Dallemand does not intend to put furloughs into the mix for school employees.
Collier talked about the deficit with principals last week, he said.
I mentioned furloughs and the fact there are other districts around us and comparable to us that are looking at furloughs or are under furloughs, Collier said Wednesday. Were not looking at furloughs until we can come up with the budget to see exactly where were going to be.
School board member Lynn Farmer said she had heard rumors about the scale of the deficit since Colliers March presentation. She said she wants to know how Dallemand plans to implement parts of the Macon Miracle plan, such as elementary school foreign language, which the school system had never been able to afford.
My concern all along is we cant afford to do the stuff hes talking about doing, Farmer said.
School board member Wanda West said she wants more information about the deficit and about possible solutions before commenting.
Maybe thats in a report thats coming, West said. I think you have information that we dont have yet.
Nearly half of the school systems deficit is carried over from an existing shortfall.
The school system budgeted using about $3.7 million from its financial reserves, known as a fund balance, in the fiscal year that ends in June. Collier said he expects the fund balance will fall to somewhere between $20 million and $22 million.
If nothing else changes in the budget, the school systems fiscal 2013 budget would also be about $3.7 million short.
But other funding changes are harming the bottom line. Collier said he expects health insurance costs for some employees to increase about $2 million in the next fiscal year that begins July 1. The state also changed its funding formula for how money gets shifted among needy school systems, which will cost Bibb County another $2 million or so, Collier said.
The school system also will have to pay more for a state teacher retirement system, which will add about $1.3 million in costs. The system will also receive less money from the state, which expects enrollment to fall by 324 students.
Other changes include rising costs for fuel, workers compensation and unemployment, according to Colliers March presentation. Revenue from local property taxes also may decline, though estimates are not yet available.
Colliers March projections showed a $9.83 million surplus in fiscal 2011; a $3.72 million shortfall in the current fiscal year; a $9.48 million shortfall in fiscal 2013; a $5.31 million shortfall in fiscal 2014; and a surplus of $48,700 in fiscal 2015. If those estimates become reality, the fund balance would fall to less than $7.3 million, or about a third of where it is today.
Collier said Macon Miracle reforms wont add costs.
We will operate within our budget. Some of the things in the strategic plan will be a case of us redirecting dollars that reprioritizes or refocuses the agenda that were trying to execute, but it will be within the framework of our budget, not outside of that, he said.
Most of the action items in a management plan for the Macon Miracle contain a note of Cost: Redirected from within current budgets.
The phrase Cost: Redirected appears 162 times in the document.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.