School board gets clean audit, budget down due to expiring federal grant, federal and state funding cuts

Published 3:04 pm Tuesday, September 17, 2013

By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal

The Lowndes County Board of Education approved a fiscal year 2014 budget last Thursday night that will ultimately be down about $6 million from last year due to expiring federal grant funds and both state and federal budget cuts.

The board approved a fiscal year budget with estimated revenues of $23.2 million and expenses of $23.1 million, which is down from $29.4 million in 2013.

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However, the school system received a clean audit, according to Teresa Dekle, audit manager for the Department of Examiners of Public Account.

Dekle said the financial statements were presented fairly in accordance with generally accepted accounting principals. “We also noted no matters to indicate that the board had not complied in all material respect with applicable laws and regulations.”

She also said the board was audited for federal financial assistance programs this year of the Title I Program, the Recovery Act for School Improvement and the State Energy Program and, “There were no problems with these federal programs.”

School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Boyd said he appreciated the hard work of chief officer of business and financial affairs Marc Nicholas, the principals and central office staff. He said, “This is again a perfect audit for our district.”

Dekle said there were no audit findings.

Explaining that the decreased budget is due to no fault of the school system, Nicholas said, “We have one of the best teams of administrators in the state. We have a very outstanding superintendent. And all the administrators here, especially Bernard Mitchell (federal programs), and Jason Burroughs, (operations), do an outstanding job managing our money and being fiscally correct in their allocation of expenses.”

Nicholas said the fiscal 2014 budget, which is down 21 percent overall from 2013 includes federal revenues of $8,622,000, down 33 percent, state revenues of $11,375,000, down 8 percent and local revenues of $2,202,000.

This year Nicholas said, the school system lost $3.4 million in federal funds because a 103g federal school improvement grant that expired. He said it was used to buy school improvement items such items as iPads for four schools, Calhoun, Jackson-Steele, Lowndes Middle School and Hayneville Middle, as well as to pay salaries for personnel to help with educational purposes.

He said the school system also suffered about $200,000 in federal government non-funding cuts and said state funding was down about 8 percent.

“It could be a lot worse,” Nicholas said had Boyd not personally been proactive to go out and get grants. “He brought in almost $24 million over a 5-year period to Lowndes County.”

Nicholas said 2014 budget includes Teacher Incentive Fund grant federal dollars of $2,067,000 and a federal 21st Century grant of $200,000 for after school programs.

Boyd said, “The budget is reduced because we no longer have funds from the 103g, which means we’ll have less instructional assistants for the district. But we’re still going to provide adequate services to students across the district.”