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BOE: Budget numbers tight

LINDEN – Don’t be fooled by the numbers, the Marengo County Board of Education is just being conservative when they project a bottom line figure that proves to be approximately $200,000 more than they earn in revenue.

“Our expenditures will end up being more than revenue by about $200,000,” said Luke Hallmark, superintendent of the Marengo County School system. “When we do a budget it looks like we have a deficit. But our revenue ends up being more than what our projected revenue is. We are just budgeting things conservatively.”

For the 2007 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, the Marengo County Board has budgeted a total revenue of $10,530351 and an expenditure tally of $10,316,767.

They also have budgeted $414,805 under the other fund sources category.

“You would have thought it would have been a little better because of the budget passed by the legislature,” said Hallmark. “But, anytime you are in a small rural system and your enrollment decreases some, your federal programs money doesn’t increase.”

According to Hallmark, the state gave each teacher a 5 percent pay raise.

“State-funded raises have an adverse effect on federal moneys,” said Hallmark. “If we are carrying eight-10 teachers with federal money and then there is a state pay-raise, it causes us to have to use federal money. And because the federal money doesn’t increase we have to use local money.”

Right now, the Marengo County Board of Education will have to stretch their budget over four school units – Marengo County, Sweet Water, A.L. Johnson and John Essex.

Students in those programs range from 225 K-12 at John Essex to over 600 K-12 at Sweet Water.

Having a limited budget can also make it difficult for schools to offer an expanded array of programs and electives.

“We kind of have to be careful with our expenditures,” said Hallmark. “We just have to be very frugal. Our expenditures cover everything down to utilities, maintenance, transportation and textbooks.”

According to Diana Luker, the Chief Financial Officer for the Marengo County School Board, teacher salaries and pensions make up over 75 percent of the budget.

“We lost some of our federal funds and had a loss of capital purchase money this year,” said Luker. “That hurt us. But we did get an increase in funds for Other Capital Expenses. That helped out a lot.

Luker also said that during proration, the OCE funds were cut and that now the state has begun to open those back up to give to schools.