MOORESVILLE – The Mooresville Graded School District Board of Education approved its 2018-19 budget at its Sept. 11 meeting – just over a month before its “drop-dead” deadline of Oct. 15.
But MGSD Chief Financial Officer Terry Haas said it isn’t always that easy.
“Public schools are a little bit bizarre,” Haas said of the school system’s budgeting.
That is in part, Haas said, because the bulk of the district’s funding comes from the state. This year, almost 60 percent of MGSD’s $59.9 million total budget – $34.7 million – came from the State Public School Fund.
“So whenever they finalize their budget, we really can start doing serious planning,” Haas said.
The other approximately 40 percent of the budget comes from a variety of sources, including Iredell County.
The 2018-19 budget includes about $13 million in county money from two funds – the Local Current Expense Fund and the Capital Outlay Fund.
The annual budget process for MGSD begins in March, Haas said, when the district staff make a presentation to the county asking for what they believe they’ll need from it for the year.
But because the General Assembly is not in session every other year during that presentation – the General Assembly commences in January of odd years and in early summer for even years – Haas said sometimes the district’s request of the county is more like a guess.
“We have to go off of what was in the second year, the biennium, budget, and they don’t always leave it like that,” Haas said of the state. “In fact, they never leave it like that.”
Although this year was an early summer beginning for the General Assembly, Haas said the district did receive numbers from the legislature in July.
Other sources of revenue for the district’s budget include the Other Current Expense and Child Nutrition funds, which are made up of federal, state and local dollars; the Federal Program Fund, comprised entirely of federal funds; and the Before and After School Program Fund, which is largely funded by Before and After School program fees.
Although the 2018-19 budget has been approved, Haas said it is a “living document” and is updated throughout the academic year with budget amendments.
“I’m still getting allocations from the state,” Haas said. “We still receive money in that maybe I wasn’t anticipating getting in, or we received notification that maybe something has a reduction that we weren’t anticipating. That happens throughout the school year.”
The first budget amendments could come to the board for approval as early as November.
When putting the annual budget together, Haas said, she tries to be “conservative” with her financial estimates to ensure the district can only be surprised by getting more from its revenue sources, like the town’s supplemental property tax or state funding, rather than less.
“I don’t want to say we’re going to get in $100,000, and we only get in $75,000 – that’s a hole to fill,” Haas said. “So I’d rather say we’re going to get in $75,000 and get in $100,000 and then go back and amend and utilize that as needed.”
Everyone who lives in the Mooresville Graded School District area pays an additional 18.5 cents per $100 on their property taxes that goes toward the school system, even if they don’t have children.
The supplemental tax makes up about $7 million, or about 11.5 percent, of the $59 million 2018-19 budget. It is part of the Capital Outlay and Local Current Expense funds.
“And I get it. When you see $59 million, it’s a lot of money,” Haas said. “But when I know that the bulk of that is going to pay our staff – teachers, custodians, bus drivers, all those people that work in the school district – and that there’s so little left for all the other things – utilities, electricity, telephones, copiers, instructional supplies – I mean, there’s just so little left.”
Haas said about approximately 85 percent of the district’s budget goes to its approximately 800 staff members through salaries and benefits.