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City, county schools approve budgets

When local school systems talk about their budgets, they are talking big numbers.

Russellville City Schools approved a budget that features $28.5 million in revenue – up $1.4 million from last year, chief financial officer Lisa Witt said.

Revenue comes from several sources for local school systems. For RCS, 12.7 percent comes from federal revenue; 23.7 percent ($6,762,113) comes from local sources; and the bulk, 60.2 percent (slightly more than $17K) comes from state revenue. The remaining sliver of funding comes from other sources.

RCS expenditures – $28.2 million in total – include line items for instructional services, which make up more than half of the system’s expenses, along with instructional support services (10.5 percent), auxiliary services (13.4 percent), capital outlay (1.5 percent), operations and maintenance (6.5 percent), debt services, (4.1 percent) and general administrative services (5.9 percent). More tangibly, these expenses represent technology, professional development, campus upgrades and more

“We’re excited to be adding two more Pre-K units. We feel that program is really good for the kids,” Witt said.

Capital projects budgeted include completion of work at the Russellville High School athletic field along with smaller-scale projects for necessary upgrades/renovations to features like sidewalks and windows – “things you have to address as your campus ages,” Witt said.

Witt said the bulk of the $1.4 million increase is from state funds. Because of the way those state funds are allocated, the increase in funding correlates closely to an increase in expenses.

One variable in the budget that is still a little up in the air is the system’s out-of-district policy, which Witt said has thrust RCS into a “state of change.”

“Our student numbers are still firming up (as well as) the resulting effect on our revenue,” Witt said. “We’ll have to watch what that does with our revenue.”

Superintendent Heath Grimes commended Witt’s work with the budget preparation.

“We have a tradition of excellence for our students, and excellence costs money,” “Programs cost money, and all the extras cost money.” Grimes thanked the community and the city for its support of the school system and noted the importance of the portion of the 1-cent sales tax that comes to RCS for expenses, which voters favored this summer for other two-year span.

Franklin County Schools also recently addressed budgetary concerns, setting a FY 2016-2017 budget of $34.4 million in revenue and $34.6 million in expenditures. The theme for this year’s budget, chief financial officer Carla Knight said was “growing pains.”

“We were thrown a curve ball in March when we found out Russellville was not going to bus outside the city limits anymore,” Knight said. “We didn’t really know what we were facing … We had to think about classroom space, bus routes, hiring employees – considering everything that had to be done, kudos to everybody involved.”

Because a large portion of funding relies on student enrollment from the previous year, FCS revenue for this fiscal year is based on enrollment numbers prior to the surge caused by RCS’ new out-of-district policy.

“But even after all that … we still have our head about water and are in decent shape compared to where we were several years ago,” Knight said.

Knight also emphasized the importance of the 1-cent sales tax for the Franklin County School System.

“It’s so important that we get that every year,” Knight said. “One good thing about our enrollment jump and Russellville’s going down, we’ll get a greater percentage of that (1-cent sales tax).”

FCS Superintendent Gary Williams thanked everyone one in the system for what they have done in the past few years to improve the FCS’ financial situation. “It’s been a lot of sleepless nights for all of us,” Williams said. “We used to write checks and we would have to let them sit on the desk until Carla told us we could send them off, and that was with people calling us and threatening us. We don’t have to do that now.”