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County schools pass $32 mil budget

The Franklin County School Board passed their annual budget last Tuesday, and for the second straight year, officials believe the school system will end the upcoming fiscal year with a positive balance.

FCS financial officer Carla Knight presented the proposed $32 million budget to school board members at their meeting last week.

Knight said her projections showed the school system should end fiscal year 2014-2015 with a balance of $990,000 – a far cry from the balance of negative $5 million the system started out with just two years ago for fiscal year 2012-2013.

She said the financial struggle the school system has faced and will continue to face for several years is a direct result of the three years of proration the system faced in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

“The proration that we faced for those three years put our system in such a situation that we will be affected by it for years to come,” Knight said.

“We had to borrow $4 million due to those cuts in funding and we have been making payments of $40,000 each month to get that loan paid off. Reclassifying that debt more than a year ago from short term to long term has helped our bottom line.

“In the past month, we received information from our bond counsel that now would be a good time for us to seek consolidation of our debt due to this loan, so that is something we will be looking into in the next few weeks.

“The debt consolidation could end up saving the system $635,000 in interest over the period of several years.

“Any savings is a positive step forward, and we hope to have a proposal for the possible debt consolidation by the next board meeting in October.”

During Knight’s budget presentation on Tuesday, she said the system has gotten the $4 million debt down to $2.3 million.

“It is a great accomplishment to pay the debt down this much in this amount of time,” she said.
Knight said a big thing that has helped, and will continue to help the school system, is the one-cent sales tax both the Franklin County and the Russellville City school systems receive.

Franklin County residents voted in June of this year to keep the tax in place for another two years. However, this time there was a change made to the amendment that allows the Franklin County Commission to receive 25 percent of the funds generated from this one-cent tax to go toward matching funds for necessary road and bridge projects approved through the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program (ATRIP).

In the past, Knight said the county school system has received a little more than $1 million annually from the tax, but with this change, the system will lose about $300,000 of that money.

“The money from this tax is absolutely crucial to help us continue to fight to get out of debt and we appreciate the citizens supporting this one-cent tax,” Knight said.

“We won’t be receiving as much as we normally do because of the 75-25 split with the county commission, but we understand that it’s important to work together. The commission has been gracious enough to work with us in the past to get this tax amendment on the ballots in the first place, so we are glad to do our part to help them with projects that will benefit many people in the county.”