ACS approves budget for 2016 fiscal year

Published 10:36 am Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Alabaster School System's 2016 budget includes funding for a new high school and for renovation projects at existing school facilities. (File)

The Alabaster School System’s 2016 budget includes funding for a new high school and for renovation projects at existing school facilities. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – The Alabaster City School System is projected to have about $10.5 million in reserves at the end of its 2016 fiscal year, and is funding more than $96 million in capital projects, according to a budget approved by the city’s Board of Education during a Sept. 9 meeting.

During the meeting, the School Board voted unanimously to approve its fiscal year 2016 budget, which will run from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, 2016. The approval came during a special-called meeting after the board’s second public hearing on the proposed budget.

The budget includes about $63.6 million in revenues, which is a 2.3 percent increase from the 2015 fiscal year. About 53.5 percent of the revenues will come from the state, with 40.3 percent coming from local sources, 6 percent coming from federal sources and less than 1 percent coming from other sources.

The fiscal year 2016 budget includes about $162.3 million in expenditures, but the numbers are skewed by the system’s new high school construction and existing school renovation projects, which are being funded by $120 million in bonds the system issued in 2014, said system Chief School Financial Officer Linda Agee. The 2016 expenditures include $96.6 million in capital projects and about $7.5 million in debt service.

The new high school is scheduled to open off Thompson Road in the fall of 2017.

ACS Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers said the budget projects the school system ending the 2016 fiscal year with about $10.5 million in its reserve fund, representing about two-and-a-half months of operating expenses. The Alabama Department of Education requires school districts to have one month worth of operating expenses in reserve.

“I think it’s wonderful for us to be a young school system and be projected to end the year with $10.5 million in reserve,” Vickers said.

The School Board passed the budget after Alabaster resident Nick Kopp expressed concerns about compensation for system athletic director and Thompson High School head football coach Mark Freeman, and about the new high school.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Kopp said Freeman “only teaches one block per day” at THS.

Vickers and School Board member Linda Church said Freeman, who earns $121,000 per year, is in charge of managing all sports in the system, and “has a lot of responsibilities” each day.

“He is at school all day doing something related to his job. He is on campus doing the business this board directed him to do,” Vickers said.

“There is a lot more to his job than going into a classroom with children,” Church said. “We need to look at the whole picture and not just the salary.”

Kopp also asked board members for a breakdown in the amount being spent on the new high school’s academic and athletic facilities.

Vickers said the board has not yet bid out the high school construction project, which will determine the cost of the project.

“The academic part was taken care of first,” Church said, noting current THS teachers had input in the design of the new school. “Will we have facilities for everyone? Yes. But I think the academic part is more than the majority of what our expense is.”