Rome City Schools will hold two public hearings for its proposed fiscal year 2020 budget this week, which will not yet include any estimated transportation costs the school will see later on in the year.
The system is looking to pay an estimated $3.2 million for 35 new buses from one of several state-approved vendors Superintendent Lou Byars said Friday. The money will come from the school system’s general fund, which has a balance of around $12 million.
The school system’s fiscal year ends on June 30 and RCS will have an estimated balance of $12 million according to a recent audit, Byars said. The school system will take that ending fund balance and apply it as their beginning balance for 2020.
“Every year going back, if you look at our budget, we always for comparison purposes start with $3.2 (million) and generally that was close to being accurate,” Byars said. “But the last few years we have actually been building our budget, and we didn’t show it in that beginning number because that is not what they are voting on. They are voting on the actual revenues and expenditures.”
The system is asking to increase its expenditures — or what they spend — to equal the amount of what their revenues are. This is how the school system is able to purchase 35 new school buses to meet the new need of a transportation infrastructure. The proposed 2020 budget shows estimated revenues to be $61.2 million, a 13.7% increase from 2019, and an estimated $62.3 million in expenditures, a 7.8% increase from the FY 2019 budget.
These numbers do not include any estimated transportation costs.
This estimated $3.2 million for the buses does not include the additional costs of hiring bus drivers or building a facility to house the buses, Byars said. The proposed budget can be amended when the system has a firmer grasp on what the actual cost will be.
“Instead of just putting a lump sum out there, now the state allows us anytime during the year to amend the budget,” Byars said.
The city government and school system were made aware in February that because of a 2018 Georgia Department of Transportation audit, the 35-year contract allowing city buses to transport RCS students would come to an end.
Since then the two organizations have been working together to come up with a solution before the deadline of Aug. 1 with RCS electing to purchase buses and the city of Rome looking for ways to keep their transportation services operational.
The purchase of the buses will not change projects paid for by the education local option sales tax such as the system’s new college and career academy.
RCS board members broke ground on that project on Friday and Byars said construction on that site has already begun.
The system will use bonds sold through the Rome Building Authority to kick start the ELOST project due to the rising costs of construction. The CCA project currently has an estimated price tag of over $24 million. Byars told the board during their planning retreat earlier this month that saving up ELOST funds for the CCA would delay construction five years, not including construction time itself.
During the retreat Byars told the board that the sixth grade academy would be put on hold so the system can continue making transportation plans for the next school year.
The bus costs may also keep RCS from constructing a small classroom addition behind Rome Middle School, Byars said.
The system is looking into moving the temporary classrooms from North Heights Elementary to Rome Middle School to relieve some of the more crowded classes at the school.
Rome City Schools will present their proposed budget Tuesday during their monthly board meting at 5:45 p.m. On Wednesday, the RCS proposed budget will go before the Rome Finance Committee at 10:45 a.m. in the Sam King Room at City Hall. All presentations are open to the public.