The Hoover school system’s chief financial officer sometimes gets tired of reciting what some people consider boring numbers in budget hearings, so she threw in a few oddball details in her 2022 budget presentation Wednesday.
For instance, the school system’s maintenance crews replaced 7,443 light bulbs last year, and Hoover schools used 9,560,000 paper towels and 56,520 rolls of toilet paper (including both regular and jumbo rolls), Chief Financial Officer Michele McCay told the Hoover school board Wednesday.
Those are some of the reasons why the school system plans to spend $1.6 million for maintenance supplies and equipment in fiscal 2022, representing a 4% increase from 2021, McCay said.
Overall, Hoover school officials propose to spend $229 million in fiscal 2022, representing an 8.5% increase from the original 2021 budget of $211 million, according to information presented in a public hearing Wednesday.
The $229 million budget proposal includes $161 million in spending from the general fund, $30 million from special revenue funds, $23 million in capital projects, $12.6 million for debt payments and about $2 million in trust accounts held for booster and support organizations such as PTO and athletic groups.
About 86% of the $161 million general fund expenditures would go toward salaries and benefits for the school district’s 1,948 employees, including $2.66 million in supplements for athletic, artistic and academic extracurricular activities, McCay said.
The $23 million in capital projects proposed would include $5.1 million in money rolled over from 2021 for bus fleet renewal, roofing projects and bathroom upgrades.
It also would include $5.3 million toward a new theater at Hoover High School (to be completed in the fall of 2023), $1.5 million for a theater upgrade at Spain Park High School, $1.9 million for a roofing project at Greystone Elementary, $1.2 million for a cooling tower replacement at Bluff Park Elementary, $1 million for a heating, ventilation and air conditioning upgrade at Gwin Elementary, $870,000 for asphalt and playground repairs and $1.2 million for other miscellaneous projects.
The proposed 2022 budget also would include $24.4 million for special education, an increase of about $3.8 million from 2021, McCay said. The number of special education students in Hoover City Schools has grown by 134 this year to 1,531 students, representing 11.4% of the total student population, McCay said.
There has been significant growth in the number of students identified on the autism spectrum, she said.
Most of the special education budget — about 78% — goes toward personnel, but other money is spent on health, psychological, speech pathology, audiology, testing and other student educational and support services, professional development and materials and supplies.
The school district plans to spend $18.8 million for operation and maintenance services, including $8.9 million for personnel, $5.6 million for utilities, $1.6 million for supplies and equipment, $500,000 for insurance, $240,000 for landscaping and $180,000 for garbage service, McCay said.
The proposed 2022 general fund budget includes $8.4 million for transportation, including $7.3 million for salaries and benefits for 129 bus drivers, 40 special education bus drivers and aides and 11 mechanics.
The school district proposes to spend $11.6 million for its child nutrition program, including $5 million for salaries and benefits and $4.4 million for food and commodities.
The number of children approved for the free and reduced-price meal program (based on income) has fallen from 3,639 students in fiscal 2019 to 3,301 in fiscal 2021, representing 24% of all students, records show. This school year, that percentage has dropped to 22% as of now, Child Nutrition Director Melinda Bonner said.
In reality, the United States Department of Agriculture is paying for all students to receive free meals again this school year, but the number of children who qualify for the free and reduced-price program impacts federal funding for other school system services, so school officials strongly encourage people to apply for the program regardless.
On the revenue side, Hoover City Schools expect to receive $221 million in fiscal 2022, including $110 million from city, county and other local sources, $92 million from the state, $19 million from the federal government and $192,000 from other revenue sources.
The $110 million in “local” revenues includes $47.2 million from Hoover property taxes, $13.6 million from Jefferson County property taxes, $7.3 million from Shelby County property taxes, $5 million from the city of Hoover, $1.9 million from the Jefferson County Commission, $1.4 million from Shelby County sales taxes, $620,000 from interest revenue and $420,000 from a Medicaid reimbursement.
Revenues from the state are increasing slightly, but money from the state’s
Foundation program for salaries and benefits actually is decreasing by about $670,000 because of declining enrollment in Hoover schools, McKay said.
Enrollment in Hoover schools declined by 436 students last year, from 13,866 students at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year to 13,430 students at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, records show.
This year, as of Sept. 8, enrollment stood at 13,475 students, McCay said. She’s not sure whether the generally lower enrollment numbers should be attributed more to the COVID-19 pandemic or a change in demographics due to more housing targeted for people ages 55 and older, she said.
The state is providing some one-time additional funding to help keep school systems’ personnel levels stable during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Hoover school officials will have to evaluate whether they can maintain current personnel levels or if they should reduce staffing if enrollment stays lower, school board member Craig Kelley said. He is not proposing that as of now, but it’s something to review, he said.
The school district plans to spend about $7 million more than it receives in fiscal 2022, lowering its overall fund balance from an expected $106 million on Oct. 1 of this year to an expected $99 million on Sept. 30 of 2022, McCay said.
However, some of that money coming out of the fund balance was simply unspent money carried over from fiscal 2021, so the more realistic expected decline in the fund balance is about $1.2 million, she said.
The Hoover school board plans to have a second public hearing on the proposed 2022 budget at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 14 and plans to vote on the budget at its 5:30 p.m. action meeting the same day.