Ed Roberson

Cullman County Schools Chief Schools Financial Officer Ed Roberson is seen in this Times photo from Sept. 2019.

The Cullman County School Board passed its 2020-2021 budget on Thursday, with projected general fund revenues of $81.56 million and expenditures of $81.92 million for the coming year.

Following a presentation on some of its highlights by Chief School Financial Officer Ed Roberson, the board voted to approve the Fiscal Year 2020-2021 Budget during Thursday night's board meeting.

Roberson first presented the budget last month, as boards are required to hold two public budget hearings before passing it, and he said there were just a few small changes to the budget from last month which are mainly because the amount of federal funding was not finalized at that point.

For the system's $81.92 million in expenditures, the majority goes to pay for the system's personnel, with $53.67 million going towards salaries and $20.93 million going to benefits. That adds up to 74 percent of the expenditures paying for the system's faculty and staff, and that is where most of the money should be going, Roberson said.

"It better be in a school system if you're doing what you're supposed to be doing," he said.

Roberson said the rest of the expenditures include $9.59 million in purchase services, which account for things like utilities, student services, professional services, maintenance and insurance on buildings, along with $8.82 million going to materials and supplies and $4.88 million going to equipment.

The system saw a drop in its average daily student enrollment last year, from 9,355.10 in this year’s budget to 9,226.95 in the coming year’s budget, which means there will be five fewer personnel units funded by the state foundation program — which provides the funding for the majority of the system's employees.

Overall, the system will have 617 total foundation program units, with 534 teachers, 26 principals, eight assistant principals, 21 counselors, 24 librarians, three career tech directors and one career tech counselor. Other state funding will be providing an additional 10 teacher units and 13 support personnel, and federal funds will be paying for 16 teachers and 133 additional support personnel. Local funds will be paying for an additional 36 teachers and 11 more support positions.

That adds up to a total of 1128 personnel for the system, with 599 teachers, 24 librarians, 21 counselors, 37 administrators, 13 certified support personnel and 433 non-certified support personnel.

There are a few planned capital projects for the coming year, with the home economics building for Holly High School set to be completed after it was delayed in the spring. Other projects include paving work around the county’s campuses, improved security like secure entries and cameras, the replacement of window air conditioner units in classrooms and the installation of HVAC systems in school gyms, Roberson said.

"Some of that may last longer than FY '21, but we've got some great things going on in the future," he said.

Of the $81.56 million in revenues, around $60.54 million of that is coming from the state, $20.47 million is coming from local sources and $551,104 is coming from federal or other sources.

Local sales taxes account for the majority of the system's local revenue, with $12.6 million coming from the one-cent sales tax and half-cent sales tax that go towards local schools. Out of the rest of the local funding, $7.31 million comes from local property tax revenues and $554,707 comes from other sources such as the TVA, manufactured home registration and Helping Schools car tags.

Roberson said some of the half-cent sales tax revenue is sent directly to schools to use at their own discretion, with each school receiving a base amount of $5,000 plus an additional amount of $74.50 per student enrolled in the school.

The impact of COVID-19 shutdowns on sales tax revenue was in question earlier this year, and the board passed a budget amendment earlier this year to to decrease the amount of projected sales tax revenues by $500,000, but the local economy has picked back up after the shutdown and year-to-date sales tax revenues are actually around $500,000 higher than originally projected, Roberson said.

"We have been blessed here in Cullman County," he said. "The economy has really rebounded, so we're very fortunate when it comes to our local taxes."

Tyler Hanes can be reached at 256-734-2131 ext. 238.

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