BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
The Greene County School System's early handle on the 2013-2014 budget had county commissioners desiring to see similar progress on the county's finances during Tuesday's meeting of the Greene County Education Committee.
The committee heard reports from County Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk concerning the formation of safety committees, school repairs and improvements, and the budget.
School System Budget Director Mary Lou Woolsey told the committee that annual increases to salaries, as determined by the salary schedule, and an early estimate of a 5 percent increase in health insurance costs would represent about a $200,000 increase to expenditures.
In addition, Woosley said that, later in the year, the system will probably decrease the budget for electricity costs as a result of energy-efficiency savings experienced in the last year. The savings, she said, could represent a $100,000 decrease in expenditures.
While it is too early to estimate revenues, Woolsey also noted that actual sales tax receipts in the current budget year are about 2.5 percent below projections.
Kirk said that she is hopeful this gap will close as the weather warms and people begin returning to stores and spending more in the Spring.
"We feel pretty confident that we will be okay this year," Kirk said.
"$200,000 in a budget like this is not bad," Chairman Hilton Seay agreed, referencing the $45 million total budget.
Committee members Nathan Holt, Jan Kiker, Wade McAmis, Lloyd "Hoot" Bowers and Seay all praised Kirk and Woolsey for early work on the coming budget.
Moreover, the committee members noted their desire to see the county do the same in order to enact a budget prior to the start of the fiscal year.
In other business, County Schools Maintenance Director David Myers gave the committee an update on capital project improvements, during which he noted that, by the end of summer, all but three schools will have safety entrances that force visitors to enter the school office before gaining access to the other areas of the school building.
The three schools not yet in the budget for safety entrances are Glenwood and Nolichuckey elementary schools and the T.H. McNeese Educational Center.
In final business, Kirk also reported that the system has established an Administrative Safety Committee and a Safety Committee comprised of members of the Board of Education and County Commission.
"The Sheriff's Department has been wonderful to work with," she said, sharing that they are refurbishing the system's radios and working with every school to develop emergency safety plans.
Thus far, committees have made early recommendations for safety entrances at every school, a two-way radio for every teacher, working locks and a camera system for every school, she added.
Holt noted that the Safety Committee, of which he is a member, also discussed fundraising through the community.
Seay encouraged Kirk to look to the municipalities for safety-related donations as well.
Kirk agreed that municipalities may be a funding source for the desired safety equipment.
The committee adjourned after hearing these reports.