Schools increase reserve funds

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Andalusia City Schools finished the fiscal year 2011 with a little more than two months operating reserve balance, a change from previous years, officials said Monday night.

This was an increase from what Chief Financial Officer Jean Sellers told board members in August she anticipated at the end of the budget year, when she said she hoped to have a little more than one month’s operating reserve.

For Andalusia City Schools, one month’s operating reserve equates to $800,000.

Sellers told board members Monday night that the main increase comes from increased sales tax collections and increased city ad valorem.

“We received $163,000 more in sales tax collections,” she said. “And $226,699 more in ad valorem than anticipated.”

Additionally, Sellers said tthe system has approximately $100,000 in contributions that will also carry over into the new fiscal year.

Sellers said those contributions came from the City of Andalusia, the Bulldog Foundation and the Dixon Foundation.

Superintendent Ted Watson said the increase in operating reserve is a true testament of Sellers’ work.

“We have a bookkeeper that is second to none,” he said. “Jean, she does a good job managing our funds, and that’s a big part of it, just as it’s a huge part of any type of financial gain.”

Watson said the increase is a culmination of “putting everything on the table.”

“The increase comes from a little bit here and a little bit there,” he said. “We had some people step up and help. Like the city is taking care of most of grass cutting, and we’ve found a few things in our budget that we felt like we could do without, and we cut them.”

Among those things are service contracts that Watson said the system officials were told not to re-enter.

“We’ve taken a long hard look at our technology needs,” he said. “We’re not where we need to be quite yet, but we’re trying to stretch our dollar.”

Watson said he’s pleased that the system has the much-needed cushion without reaching into the “back pocket” of local residents.

“We have not gone to the community requesting more taxes,” he said. “And it’s certainly nice to have the 2.1 months as a opposed to a little less than one month two years ago.

“In fact, we are tickled to death,” he said. “It comes a little bit ahead of schedule. We honestly thought it would take four or five years to get to these levels.”

Still, Watson said it’s important to remember that state officials are forecasting a 5 percent decrease off the top in funding for the 2013 budget year.

“We’re not talking about proration,” he said. “We’re talking about the initial budget. State school officials are also predicting it could be four to five years before we’re back at 2008 funding levels. So, we have to keep that in mind.”

Watson said the bottom line is those system officials are working tirelessly to improve finances.

“We’re securing the future of Andalusia City Schools and the future of their education. That’s what our focus is on.”