Morgan County Schools to spend some reserves on capital projects
By Erica Smith
For the Enquirer
Morgan County Schools predicts it will have a fund balance at the end of fiscal 2023 that’s enough to cover almost six months in expenses, but it expects that number to drop next fiscal year as it makes expenditures on a new Priceville Junior High and other capital projects.
Tara Humphries, Morgan County Schools chief school financial officer, said the fund balance on Oct. 1, the first day of fiscal 2024, is projected to be $78.4 million. By the end of the fiscal year in Sept. 30, 2024, that balance is projected to be down to $38.3 million.
John Holley, Board of Education chairman, said the state and board have set requirements for how many months the district must have in reserve.
“Three months is our goal, where we need to stay,” he said. “We’re required (by the state) to have one month of operating budget reserve, but our goal is really always to stay at three months.”
Tracie Turrentine, Morgan County Schools superintendent, said some of the reserve money is for infrastructure projects.
“We have the money sitting there for Priceville Junior High; we already have it allocated out and it’s there,” she said. “And Union Hill (School), the 10-classroom addition.” She said those and other projects will reduce the reserve by the end of the fiscal year.
Turrentine said they broke ground on the new Priceville Junior High on Sept. 5.
There are also a lot of HVAC projects going on, Holley said.
“Some of those are going to bring the reserve down quickly,” Holley said. “The budget we have predicted now will bring us down to about four months, I believe.”
Turrentine said she feels good about having so many months in reserve.
“I think it says that we have a financial cushion for the organization,” she said. “I think we’re doing a good job of financial planning and management.”
Holley said the budget is basically flat for the coming fiscal year.
“We’re not projecting a whole lot of increase in revenues or anything like that,” he said. “We figure it’s going to be pretty flat, so we were trying to budget conservatively. Hopefully it will come in a little better but we’re just flat is what we’re doing.”
Holley said they are trying to live within their means.
“We have a lot of, I guess what you’d call infrastructure projects going,” he said. “We really don’t want to step out there and get ourselves in a bind because we’ve mismanaged it so that’s why we budget level.”
The total projected revenue for fiscal 2024 is $113,036,819 compared to about $109,037,713 in fiscal 2023. The total projected expenditures for fiscal 2024 are projected at $153,974,962, compared to $153,430,633 in fiscal 2023.
In fiscal 2024, there is projected to be a daily average of 487.9 teachers, principals, assistant principals, counselors, librarians and vocational education directors and counselors employed at Morgan County Schools. The salaries and fringe benefits in fiscal 2024 for these staff members is projected to be about $41.3 million.
Turrentine said both certified and non-certified employees received a 2% raise for fiscal 2024. The state Legislature increased pay for certified staff “and our non-certified also got a raise from the board,” she said.
The total program allocations were about $15 million for fiscal 2024 compared to about $14.4 million in fiscal 2023. One of the largest increases was an increase of $164,885 from fiscal 2023 to a projected $628,816 in fiscal 2024 for school nurses.
“The legislation, they increased (registered nurses’) and (licensed practical nurses’) salary,” Turrentine said. “So, that’s where that increase comes from.”
Another significant increase was $176,669 more from fiscal 2023 to about $2 million projected in fiscal 2024 for special education.
“Special ed has always been a big number like that,” Turrentine said. “We have added a behavioralist in that department.”