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Jefferson schools face making improvements despite low revenues
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Even in the face of state budget cuts, area school systems still have to educate students.

During the Jefferson city school system’s weekend retreat, Kim Navas, the system’s financial officer, gave the school board an overview of exactly where the system stands financially.

"As of (Friday) we still do not know where we stand for 2009, (the state) hasn’t given us the final midterm numbers. My projections are more on the conservative side, but be aware that they are not final," Navas told the group. "The original revenue projection was around $19.1 million, the new (revenue projection) is around $18 million."

Navas also pointed out that Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax collections will be down and many developers also haven’t been able to pay taxes on their properties due to the recession.

Despite expecting lower revenue, the school system must still determine how to pay for new school buses, replacing outdated technology and various construction projects.

Among other things, the school system is planning to renovate and replace parts of Jefferson High and Jefferson Elementary. Plans calls for adding extra classrooms to both schools; each project currently carries a $4 million price tag.

While state funding would pay for new classroom space, new cafeterias and a gym must be paid for locally.

"We have about $25 million in principal debt, but we can go up to $46 million," Navas said. "But SPLOST is a very important resource, we couldn’t continue doing what we are doing without it."

Like many local governments, school system officials also are hoping to receive federal stimulus funds, but must be careful about how they use it.

"We have been hearing about two different sources of funding coming to the states for stabilization and stimulus money in the form of grants paid directly to the school systems from the federal government," Navas said. "One grant is for Title One schools for $181,000. The other grant is geared towards special education in the amount of $187,000.

"The money is to be spent over a two-year period from FY 2010 to FY 2011. We’re told we would (get) half of the money in April and the other half in September. We do have to apply and state how we would use the money."

Navas said system staff will be meeting to determine how the money could be used to benefit students.

"We can’t use the money to (take the place of) other funding, we can only use it to supplement funding," she said. "The goal here is to protect and/or add jobs in support of student achievement for disadvantaged students. But we don’t want to create positions that we can’t afford to fund after the stimulus money is gone."