Phenix City School District approves budget

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By Blenda Copeland

The Phenix City Board of Education has approved the district’s Fiscal Year ’18-’19 budget.

Cheryl Burns, Chief School Financial Officer, delivered a summary presentation of the budget during the board’s called meeting Aug. 14 and was also available to answer questions during the regular board meeting Aug. 16.

During her presentation, Burns noted that the district’s average daily membership (ADM), based off September 2017’s figure, was 6,988.75. That figure is the number used to decide government funding allocations.

In selected highlights, Burns noted the biggest impact or concern for the proposed budget this year was in the area of maintenance and operations, which are budgeted to be about 45 percent covered by government funding this year. Also, it was mentioned that the district’s preschool efforts are 79 percent covered, with 21 percent not covered. The district opened a new school this year – Creekside Early Learning Center – on Lakewood Drive, where six of the district’s 10 preschool classes are located this year.

During discussion, Superintendent Randy Wilkes opined to the board that, “The state has got to come and help us more.” He made that comment when talking about the district’s aging school buildings, some of which he estimated were built around the 1960s.

Continuing in her presentation, Burns noted the upcoming FY’s budget was estimated to create about 1.26 months in reserves, amounting to about $5.8 million. She said it might actually end up being higher, however, “I just like to be very, very conservative.” She and the superintendent jointly said they try to plan for the worst case scenario in their budgeting – for fixing emergencies like an unexpected sinkhole, for instance.

Total revenue is pegged at around $72.9 million, which total expenditures budgeted to be around $72.3 million.

As for capital projects, around $642,000 has been set aside for potential projects throughout the district – a list that could change as needed, the superintendent clarified. The possible list of projects includes anything from painting, to a new roof (for one building), to even asphalt or even multiple A/C units throughout the district.

Another point Burns pointed out repeatedly was that the budget’s numbers increased in one area because that reflects a 2.5 percent raise mandated for all school employees, not just teachers.

The superintendent also mentioned the district is currently researching or seeking about nine or more different grants. Along this line, a potential playground for Creekside ELC might be in the works, according to superintendent comments during the meeting.

In another highlight, the school board also held its work session Aug. 14 and discussed, among other things, the district’s five-year plan. The superintendent explained several priorities on the planning wish list, correlating with the growth the district has seen at different schools.

Topping the list at number 1 was the district’s transportation facility (an estimated $3.6 million project).

The second highest priority potential project involves renovations and additions for Phenix City Intermediate School (potentially in 2020), whose ADM has steadily grown over the past few years and now is more than 1,100 students. Potential renovations/additions at South Girard ranked third in priority (an estimated $750,000 project, possibly for 2020).

Central Freshman Academy improvements – possibly in 2021, at about $3 million – were ranked a number 4 priority desire.

Following at spots 5, 6, 7, and 8 were improvements at Central High (about $10 million in additions/renovations), Ridgecrest Elementary, Westview (an addition), and maybe land improvements in 2023 for CHS (estimated $800,000 project).

Further down the list in priority, at number 9, was considering whether to one day expand Creekside ELC to a K-2 school if needed in the future – perhaps something like a Sherwood Primary School if needed.