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Board approves ‘lean’ MCS budget

MADISON – Madison Board of Education has approved a budget for Madison City Schools in the 2017-2018 school year that district officials are describing as “lean.”

The budget’s emphasis concentrates on protecting pupil-teacher ratios, curtailing expenses and maintaining an adequate fund balance, MCS Chief Financial Officer Jana Gray said.

“The budget reflects the harsh reality of the fast-growing, still-young Madison City Schools district. With so much tied up in mortgage payments for lots of schools ($165 million) and escalating demands from huge enrollment gains, the board was told the next borrowing window for any major capital project won’t be until 2028 and even then will only be $8 million,” MCS Public Relations Manager John S. Peck said.

That scenario “stirred concern from school officials, who will face over-capacity issues in just a couple of years,” Peck said.

“We are at our debt limit. We cannot borrow any more money without additional revenue,” Gray said. Superintendent Robby Parker said the school district will need a new high school, middle school and elementary within the next 10 years if growth continues at its current place.

Estimated revenue growth in the budget is projected at 3.8 percent. The biggest capital outlay projects $9 million for Liberty Middle School renovation to accommodate the shift of sixth grades into Madison middle schools next year. Discovery Middle School formerly housed Bob Jones High School’s population and can handle the additional grade.

“Compounding the budget pressure this year is the fact $1.2 million in local school funds must be used to help fund new teaching units from Madison’s new growth because state allocations trail a year behind,” Peck said.

“Also, the lingering Limestone County tax dispute will cost the school district $1.8 million this year. Madison City Schools ranks 61st out of 137 school districts in per pupil expenditures, which makes its top-ranking performance among peer districts admirable,” Peck said.

Passage of the budget came against the backdrop of the interim report by Madison Schools Growth Impact Committee. The focus of the study is to develop a plan ‘to keep Madison City Schools the best K-12 educational value in the state’ by better understanding the impact of city growth,” Peck said.

To view the entire growth report, visit www.madisonal.gov/DocumentCenter/View/10146.

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