School budgets: on the rise
The Russellville City Schools and Franklin County Schools budgets are both seeing increases for the 2017-2018 fiscal year that will begin Oct. 1.
RCS’ budget is set at $29.9 million in revenue, up $1.4 million from last year’s $28.5 million, according to chief finance officer Lisa Witt.
She credited the bulk of that increase to the capital project in process at Russellville Middle School. “The primary funding for this project is coming out of the general fund,” Witt said.
At the beginning of 2017, the project to add eight classrooms, some restrooms and a storm shelter to RMS began, and it will be continuing into this fiscal year, she said. Witt said she anticipates the project will be completed by mid-December 2017.
Other projects in the budget are three pre-K classrooms, none of them new this fiscal year, the 21st Century Grant that funds the after school and summer school programs and the Advanced Placement program.
“All of these programs are extremely successful in helping prepare and educate our children,” Witt said.
The 21st Century Grant provides $150,000 to West Elementary School and Russellville Elementary School, and the AP program is now being continued through the use of local funds, according to Witt. She said the students’ scores were up so much that Russellville was chosen to host this year’s AP celebration.
Witt said this is not a typical budget year for the Russellville City Schools system because of the introduction of the out-of-district policy that went into effect last year.
“This is a transitional period for us while we wait for the funding and staffing to adjust and level out,” she said.
There is a total of 298 staff budgeted this year, Witt said; 191 of those are certified positions, and 107 of them are support personnel, which includes child nutritionists and transportation workers.
One item Witt is particularly passionate about is the 1-cent sales tax. The bulk of this tax is split between Russellville City Schools and Franklin County Schools based on their individual student numbers. A renewal vote for the tax will be held in spring 2018.
“Without it, we wouldn’t be able to provide as many opportunities to the students as we are now, like robotics, the AP program and performing arts,” Witt said.
The local revenue column in RCS’ budget receives annual support from the City of Russellville, and Witt said she would like to thank Mayor David Grissom and the council for their continued support.
FCS’ budget is set at $36 million, and chief finance officer Carla Knight attributed a lot of that to the growth of the Foundation Program.
The allocation of the Foundation Program is determined by the number of students enrolled each year, and Knight projects that this year there will be 3,621 students enrolled, which is 122 more than last year.
“We like to be a growing, prospering system,” Knight said.
FCS’ Title 1 and Special Education funds rose this year, and they are planning to gain six to seven new teacher units next year, according to Knight.
This year the system has added new service units, including a half of a gifted unit, a new speech unit, a half of a cosmetology unit and a home economics unit, Knight said.
County teachers will receive $421.51 individually for classroom supplies with this fiscal budget, a number Knight said is slowly growing each year.
Knight also highlighted the importance of the 1-cent sales tax that is coming up for a vote next spring.
“It provides around $1 million for our school system every year. We can’t do without it,” she said.
Knight worked hard on the budget and said her hope is that FCS will educate students as best they can with the resources available to them.