Hall County Schools fund balance history
2010: $12.3 million
2011: $19.7 million
2012: $18.5 million
2013: $17.74 million
2014: $17.338 million
2015: $22.98 million
2016: $29.17 million
2017: $32.358 million
Final numbers for the 2016-17 school year general fund budget showed Hall County Schools took in about $4.4 million more than it spent and ended the fiscal year with a fund balance in excess of $32 million.
Jonathan Boykin, financial officer for the school district, presented the the numbers during Monday night’s school board meeting.
The final numbers showed Hall County Schools spent approximately $223.28 million in its general fund and had total revenues exceeding $227.7 million. Revenues were nearly $5 million more than budgeted. Property taxes were nearly $2 million higher than budget projections, which represented 102.23 percent of the $82.786 million the school district expected to collect when the budget was approved in June 2016.
Boykin said the title ad valorem tax — commonly referred to as TAVT — pulled in more than $5.9 million for Hall County Schools during the 2017 fiscal year and is included in the property tax number. TAVT was passed a few years ago as a replacement to the annual property tax — known as the “birthday tax” — paid each year for vehicles. With TAVT, Boykin said people currently pay 7 percent of the value of a vehicle one time. The state can reduce the rate if monies collected from TAVT is determined to be too high, he added.
Budgeting TAVT revenues for a school district is “a little bit of a wild target,” according to Boykin. “With the old motor vehicle tax, the taxpayer was going to pay about the same amount each year on their vehicle,” he said. “We don’t know when a taxpayer or a person is actually going to buy a vehicle. Given the relatively new nature of this tax over the last couple of years, we’re still trying to figure out how to budget for that dollar value.”
In June 2017, Hall County Schools received more than $518,000 in TAVT compared with $421,000 in June 2016, according to Boykin.
“I expect it to go up a little bit more moderately over the next couple of years at least, but it’s probably going to level out at some point,” he said.
Boykin said the additional revenues have helped Hall County with its efforts to strengthen the district’s fund balance, which dropped to $12.3 million in 2010 during the recession when the district was using fund balances to make up for losses in tax revenues.
More than 80 percent of the district’s expenses are related to salary and benefits, and during the recession, Hall County Schools eliminated some positions and cut employee pay and had furloughs for employees to cut expenses during the those lean years. But the fund balance also took a hit. The fund balance has now grown for the past three years.
Boykin said a healthy fund balance for the school district would be in the range of $27 million to $34 million, representing about two months of expenditures in the school district. School officials have been working to get the fund balance back to an amount that would provide those two months of expenses. The 2018 fiscal year budget currently projects that the district will need to use about $3.5 million of fund balance to cover expenses for the upcoming school year, leaving an estimated fund balance in June 2018 of approximately $27.39 million.