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Marengo BOE passes budget

LINDEN &8212; After a second hearing concerning the Marengo County Schools annual budget, the Marengo County Board of Education voted unanimously to pass the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2007-2008.

One of the main points of interest is the decreased deficit, which stands at $189,628. Luker said this is the smallest deficit the system has seen in several years.

According to Luker, 83 percent of the budget is used for salaries, which cover 208 employees between four schools and the central office. The percentage is so large due to the increase in the payout for the system&8217;s insurance and benefits program through Blue Cross and Blue Shield, known as PEEHIP. The payout went from $8,604 last year to $9,300 this year.

The system, which operates A.L. Johnson High School, John Essex High School, Marengo High School and Sweet Water High School, is also expected to benefit in an increase in the ad valorem tax, which could bring in an additional $200,000.

Another source of income for the system includes funds from a state legislated bond issue, set to go into effect in December. The system was awarded $1.36 million, intended for capital improvements. Part of the provision for the bond issue funds is that one half of the funds may be used to pay down debt service. If the system chooses to do so, the funds will applied to the next fiscal year&8217;s budget.

The system was also award funds as part of $15 million set aside for Black Belt area schools.

According to Superintendent Luke Hallmark, the rationale behind these additional funds is most school systems in the Black Belt area simply do not bring in the amount of revenue other systems do, and these funds are meant to address their specific needs.

Even with extra funds, Hallmark said the system always tries to operate with &8220;conservative numbers.&8221;