The Auburn City Schools Board of Education approved the budget for Fiscal Year 2018, which begins on Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2018.
The budget details funds the school system receives from state, local and federal sources and the board's plan for using those funds to serve the students — of which there are 8,664 enrolled in ACS as of Tuesday.
In many ways, the FY2018 budget reflects the growth Auburn City Schools has experienced in recent years. About $13 million is set aside to pay for a new elementary school in the next fiscal year. The new facility is currently under construction on Richland Road and is expected to cost about $18 million in total.
The school will open in 2018, but in the meantime, Cary Woods, Richland and Yarbrough elementary schools are operating at over capacity.
Because of enrollment growth and the new elementary school, 28 new positions are accounted for in the FY2018 budget, including 10 teachers, a principal and assistant principal, four additional bus drivers and other staff that will be needed at the new school.
Total gross payroll amounts to $47.7 million, an increase of $1.86 million from last fiscal year. Payroll is funded by the General Fund — the school system's primary operating fund — and the Special Revenue Fund.
According to budget materials, ACS pays more than the state minimum salary "to recruit, hire and retain (the) highest quality teachers." Salaries and benefits account for nearly 75 percent of both the General Fund and Special Revenue Fund budgets.
At the end of FY2018, ACS projects having a General Fund balance of $14.4 million, which is a two-month reserve. The Alabama State Department of Education requires schools to have at least a one-month reserve.
The General Fund accounts for most of the school system's state and local revenues. State and local revenues increased this year, although budget documents show a decrease in local revenues. The reported decrease is misleading, however, as reports were thrown off when debt service was restructured and moved from the General Fund to the Debt Service Fund, said Liz Springer, director of finance for ACS, during a work session with the school board in August.
State revenues increased by $1.15 million and total $43.2 million for FY2018. Local revenues have a projected total of nearly $34.2 million for the FY2018 General Fund.
The top five local revenue sources for ACS include an appropriation from the city of Auburn, the county-wide 16 Mill Special School Tax, the One Cent County Sales Tax, District 3 Mill Ad Valorem Tax and the county-wide 5 Mill. Revenue from the One-Cent Sales Tax and county-wide 5 Mill is projected to increase by about $100,000 each. The city's appropriation budget is projected to increase by about $250,000 and the District 3 tax and 16 Mill tax are both expected to increase as well, according to Springer's presentation in August.
"Taxes collected by the county are split between all three (school) districts in Lee County," said Springer, who added that allocated funding is based on enrollment among other things. "As Auburn's (enrollment) has continued to grow, our percentage in county-wide tax has also grown. It will go up by a little under 1 percent this year."
The school system's Special Revenue Fund is projected to have a $5.6 million balance by the end of FY2018. This fund represents revenue and expenditure budgets that are restricted to a specific purpose, such as federal programs like the Individuals with Disabilities Act and Every Student Succeeds Act.
In the Debt Service Fund, principal and interest payments that are accounted for in the FY2018 budget total $10.9 million — an increase of nearly $1.2 million because of debt service for the new elementary school.
By Sept. 30, 2018, ACS will have $155.80 million remaining in outstanding principal.
Lastly, ACS plans to have a $3.5 million unreserved fund balance in its Capital Projects Fund by the end of FY2018. About $13 million are budgeted for the construction of the new elementary school and future goals involving the projects fund include updating the Facilities Plan 2024 to extend to 2027 and include any needed renovations and new construction as well as reviewing the potential debt capacity to inform future plans.
The budgeting process began in February and concluded this month as ACS held two public budget hearings, both on Sept. 15. The budget was approved unanimously by the school board at its meeting this week.
To review the FY2018 budget and budget presentation given at the hearings, visit www.auburnschools.org.