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School system’s savings shrink to $1.2M at close of fiscal year after $1.7M budget amendment

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Alamance-Burlington school board members were told during their latest meeting Monday night that ABSS is estimated to begin the 2023-24 fiscal year on July 1 with $1.2 million in savings (i.e., “fund balance”) in the bank.

That revelation came in the midst of a brief presentation on a request for the board’s approval of a final budget amendment in order to close the books on the 2022-23 fiscal year, which ends tomorrow.

School board members voted 6-0 Monday night to approve the use of $1.7 million in “fund balance” from the county current expense (or operations) portion of the school system’s annual budget in order to balance the books for the 2022-23 fiscal year that ends tomorrow, following the presentation by ABSS chief finance officer Kim McVey.

McVey said Monday night that the appropriation of $1.7 million in fund balance was needed, among other things, to cover the portion of the state allotment for enrollment funding that ABSS is statutorily required to share with the four charter schools in Alamance County, as well as utility costs, and “additional contracts that were entered into.”

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Previous ABSS administrators have warned that the school system’s share of payments to the four charter schools has grown in recent years because the number of students enrolled continues to increase.

The school board had also voted unanimously in December 2022 to use $55,000 in fund balance to pay substitute teachers a bonus, as McVey acknowledged during her presentation.
“When you take that into consideration…I am projecting a little over $1.2 million [fund balance] to start the new year,” the CFO told the board Monday night.

Overall, ABSS was estimated to spend $1.9 million more (or a total of $49.8 million) than the $47.8 million in county current expense funding that the school system received for the fiscal year that ends tomorrow, based on the budget amendment that McVey presented and school board members voted 6-0 to approve.

Other areas in which ABSS spent more than it received in county current expense funding included: operational support services ($2.1 million); support/development services ($439,651); payments to other government units ($372,000); policy leadership/public relations ($113,000); alternative programs ($86,080); and technology support services ($84,000), along with several smaller categories of expenses.

As part of the budget amendment they unanimously approved Monday night, school board members also granted the request to use $1.7 million in fund balance, and another $240,000 in “local unrestricted” funds, to balance the budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Maintenance costs for ABSS have increased by $1.2 million (27 percent) from $4.4 million in 2019-20 to $5.6 million for the 2022-23 fiscal year, based on additional information that McVey provided Tuesday for The Alamance News. The school system’s utility costs have increased by $677,200 (25 percent) during the same period, from approximately $2.7 million in 2019-20 to $3.4 million in 2022-23, based on figures that McVey provided to the newspaper.

“When I compare actual expenditures for the past [two] years,” McVey told the newspaper, I get this for increases: maintenance, $928,760; custodial, $309,100; and utilities, $610,410, or a total of $1.8 million in total increases in expenses over the past two years, according to the ABSS finance officer.

“In summary, to be transparent and spend from appropriate funds, everything in the current year has been paid from [county] funds, as it should be in my opinion,” McVey said Tuesday.
ABSS superintendent Dr. Dain Butler – who wasn’t present Monday night due to a previously-scheduled vacation – had previously described the $1.2 million in available fund balance as “deathly low” during his 11th-hour plea for additional funding from Alamance County’s commissioners last week.

The commissioners ultimately granted Butler’s last-minute request to allocate an additional $867,930 in order to fund new spending priorities that the school board had identified earlier this year. Those items included: $1.3 million to increase the county-funded teacher supplement by 1 percentage point; $514,965 to hire seven high school athletic trainers; and $180,000 to increase the supplement for athletic coaches.

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