Hall County Schools approved a $194 million budget for next fiscal year during its meeting Monday night.
The budget comes in $3.3 million less than last year’s budget. Revenues are set at just less than $187 million for the fiscal 2013 budget.
The school board did not set a millage rate, and members said they will do so once the ending balance of the fiscal 2012 budget is known and all the property tax appeals are in.
“We actually have not set a millage rate yet,” Superintendent Will Schofield said. “That will be one of the first amendments that we make. It’s still going to be 30 to 45 days before we know what the appeals are at this point and also before we know what our ending balance is.”
He said the board is likely to approve a rate in July or August.
“There are (a) number of school districts that don’t even set a millage rate until September,” said Schofield.
Currently, the rate is set at 17.67 mills. The maximum allowed for a roll-up this year is 19.31 mills.
Schofield said the roll-up will likely not reach the maximum.
“What we anticipate is not having a full roll-up, but I can’t imagine how we can put this budget together without some roll-up,” he said. “We just don’t know what yet.”
The local tax digest is down 7.75 percent from last year, and state revenues are down $1.3 million.
The system also is required to pay almost $3 million more in health insurance and teacher retirement than last year.
There will be 10 reduced calendar days with the possibility of adding one instructional day and one post-planning day back into the schedule.
This year’s budget winds up being about $24 million less than in 2008, and the system has added about 800 students since then.
Schofield said balancing a budget while maintaining a quality public education can be a challenge, and shrinking classroom time for students is becoming inevitable.
“The budget already reflects less classroom time for students and that concerns me greatly,” said Schofield. “It’s a balancing act. I think these are uncharted waters. We’ve never in the last 75 years talked about cutting time out of school to balance a budget. So it’s uncertain times.”
The board estimates this fiscal year to end with a fund balance of $15.6 million. It plans to spend about $7.6 million of that next year to make up the difference in revenues versus expenditures.
But Schofield said that fund won’t sustain the system for long.
“It’s one of the reasons why we’re pushing so hard for the blended learning opportunity,” he said. “We’ve got to find ways to offer the 24/7, 365(-day) learning opportunities because I don’t see any time in the near future that we’ll see a bag full of money come to public education.”