BYRON -- The school nutrition department of Peach County public schools has hit some financial woes, but the school system is working to resolve them.
An audit for fiscal 2013 showed a deficit of more than $243,000 for the department, which led the Georgia Department of Education to require monthly financial reports based on the deficit and a plan to eliminate the debt. The school board heard those reports at its monthly study session at Byron Elementary School on Tuesday.
“We’re still in a deficit, but how much of a deficit is the question right now,” said Susan Perry, the school system’s director of finance.
Time has played a part in muddying the financial waters, since the audit was based on records nearly two years old. Further, changes in bookkeeping systems have revealed discrepancies that suggest the department wasn’t in quite the hole the system initially feared.
Either way, Perry said, the department had to borrow about $150,000 from the general fund to cover two months of payroll last summer.
“You should have three months payroll in the bank,” Superintendent Daryl Fineran said.
The department has made efforts toward that goal. Joyce Martin, the bookkeeper for the school nutrition department, said her division has about $180,000 in the bank now. That recovery effort has been spurred by inventory control measures and personnel adjustments.
Perry noted that the department was “overstaffed,” so as workers have resigned or retired, the attrition has resulted in savings.
“We’re retaining money; we’re paying the bills,” said school board Chairman Ben McDaniel.
The goal, according to Perry and Martin, is to make sure the school nutrition budget is funded through the end of the school year and that the summer payroll is covered this year. After that, they’ll address paying back the money owed to the general fund.
“We’ve got to show we can cover their costs without borrowing money,” Perry said.
Also Tuesday, the board heard from several community members supporting the proposed one-cent sales tax extension that would help fund a new Peach County High School. One of the five people who addressed the board about the referendum, which will be put to a public vote March 17, was former Fort Valley Mayor John Stumbo.
“We need a new building when our students would be better served in a new building,” Stumbo said, noting the financial advantages of renewing the penny sales tax as well as the educational and safety advantages of a new school.
Parent and volunteer Veronica Ross said students are working in outdated labs that are smaller and not as well-equipped as those in other schools.
“They don’t know that there’s much better labs and stuff out there,” she said.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the board office in Fort Valley.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.