Peach BOE tentatively approves $40.4 million budget

BYRON -- Peach County school officials were pleased Tuesday with the financial direction reflected in the district’s tentative fiscal 2016 budget.

The budget of more than $40.4 million was presented at the board’s monthly study session at Byron Middle School. The budget included a projected ending balance of more than $2.4 million on June 30, 2016. The budget also includes 176 instructional days and four teacher furlough days.

That was a welcome sight to Superintendent Daryl Fineran, but he said the effort to eliminate furlough days would continue.

“I wish we could do them all, but (there are) just too many unknowns right now,” he said.

The increased classroom time comes despite a projected austerity reduction of $981,123 to the state’s Quality Basic Education Funding.

In addition, the budget returned staffing and financial supplements for the fine arts and other extracurricular activities to what they were “before the recession,” Fineran said.

“We feel pretty good about that,” he said.

While estimated figures were given for federally funded programs, final numbers won’t be ready for several months.

“We don’t have the allotments yet, so we haven’t been able to do anything with those,” Finance Director Susan Perry said.

The board approved the tentative budget unanimously, with a final adoption set for a called session at 9 a.m. June 18 at the board office in Fort Valley.

Board members also voted unanimously to select the McNeal Agency as the property, casualty and liability insurance provider for the district beginning in the 2015-16 school year. McNeal beat out GSBA in the final round of discussion.

“They had the best package,” board Chairman Ben McDaniel said.

One of the key distinguishing features of McNeal’s bid was coverage for athletes participating in school sports. That was an asset some of the district’s families couldn’t afford not to have included, board member Jamie Johnson said.

“That student athletic insurance is vital for some families,” he said.

Before the study session, the board held a public hearing for the close-out process involving the current Peach County High School. No stakeholders attended the meeting, which took place during severe storms in the area.

Assistant Superintendent for Facilities and Operations Ben Maddox presented the board a letter from SRJ Architects Inc. outlining the potential cost to renovate the school. Just the necessary renovations and modifications would total $10.6 million, with the state funding for direct construction costs of a new school calculated at $9.5 million.

“Since the construction costs to renovate your existing facility are higher than the amount you will receive from the state for a new facility, you are eligible for state funding for a new facility,” SRJ President David Guerra wrote in the letter.

The board will hold another public hearing 5 p.m. June 2 with its regular monthly meeting set for 6 p.m. the same day.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.