Proposed 2020-2021 School Budget Seeks 16.4 Percent Funding Increase

School board chairman Todd Sutton discusses the proposed 2020-2021 budget during an online video conference with fellow school board members on April 27, 2020.

Sessoms: Major Cuts Will Have To Be Made

Interim Superintendent Dr. Ben Williams formally presented his proposed new fiscal year budget to the Johnston County school board during an online budget meeting Monday evening.  The spending plan is up 16.4 percent over the current fiscal year.

The $79,805,356 draft Local Budget plan is up $11,259,438 million over the $68,545.918 budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year ending June 30, 2020.

Dr. Williams said the budget does not include any new programs or positions. Williams said the budget doesn’t add back in any of the approximately $10 million in cuts made by former interim superintendent Dr. Jim Causby and himself during the current budget year.  However the new spending proposal does include anticipated utility increases and $3.62 million to absorb a possible state increase in school salaries of three percent.  $1.5 million is included for Contract Services including funds to pay Cynergistics.

The proposal includes an additional $6,768,244 for Exceptional Children, $650,000 for Pension Spiking, $500,000 for the Restart Program, and $56,000 more for the  Central Office.

Capital Outlay Up 9.8 Percent
The 2020-2021 proposed Capital Outlay Budget is up 9.8 percent from $1,096,924 to $1,204,504.  Funds include $15,500 for equipment and furniture, $30,000 for software, $125,000 for athletic equipment, $70,200 for band equipment and $451,174 for facility improvement projects.  The $107,580 increase includes the purchase of four zero turn lawnmowers at $55,130 and two vans at $52,450.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t say we’re going to have to make some major cuts,” said school board member Terri Sessoms. “Revenue is way-way down. The budget in front of us, with the consequences of this pandemic, is unrealistic. I want everyone to understand that cuts will have to be made in this budget.”

“We have some great programs but unfortunately we cannot afford them,” Sessoms added. “The money is just not going to be there unless something miraculously happens. I don’t want to see good things go away but we have to prioritize.”

Board member Teresa Grant recommended a flat rate supplemental increase to save costs.

Chairman Todd Sutton agreed. “That way we can put together a fine-tuned budget. If we have some type of model in place we can budget more efficiently. The finance committee has discussed some of that in their meetings. There are some things we can look at. It’s a tough decision for all of us.”

Mike Wooten also said he would support an annual flat rate teacher supplement increase. “I agree with the philosophy

or model but that’s not going to help us in this upcoming budget.”

“A three to six percent increase from the state is really going to hurt,” Ronald Johnson added.

“It helps being able to give teacher supplements in the future. You know it’s going to be x-number. It’s easier to sell to the county commissioners because it is a flat rate,” Grant responded.

Wooten thanked Dr. Williams for preparing a line item budget for the board to review.  “We got more data than we ever had in a budget session. I know it wasn’t an easy task, but I appreciate it because it makes a different.”

”That is the most detailed financial budget information we have ever received,” Grant stated.

Board members said they hope none of the cuts will directly impact students or classrooms.

The School Board must finalize their budget request by May 12th at which time it will be voted on and forwarded to County Manager Rick Hester and County Commissioners for their review. County Commissioners must adopt their budget, which includes funding for Johnston County Schools, by June 30, 2020.