The Georgia School Board is prepared to ask Town Meeting voters to allow greater flexibility in saving for capital needs.
At its Dec. 12 meeting, the board voted unanimously to create a ballot item to eliminate the cap on the capital improvement reserve fund, which dictates the reserve cannot be larger than 5 percent of a year’s budget.
According to Franklin West Supervisory Union business manager Chris Sumner, the reserve fund contained $631,873 on July 1, about 4.9 percent of the $12.8 million budget.
“We were maxed out,” Sumner said. “That’s why [the board is] talking about removing the cap.”
The new ballot item would undo the cap, first instituted in 2007 when the budget was just over $11 million.
The 2007 ballot item also established a transfer limit of 50 percent of a budget surplus to the reserve fund, which wouldn’t change, Sumner said.
Fairfax and Fletcher, the other districts in FWSU, don’t have reserve fund caps, Sumner said. She told the board that Fletcher frequently changes how much it transfers to its fund each year.
Georgia board member Ben Chiappinelli said removing the cap would allow the school to consider funding larger projects. Chiappinelli headed a committee that sought last year to implement a cafeteria redesign and expansion with a $3 million bond, but voters rejected the proposal on Town Meeting Day.
They did approve a $2.4 million bond to fund a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the school’s C-building. That project is ongoing, and board chairman Carl Laroe said eliminating the fund cap would put the board “in much better shape” going into construction.
“This would be a good year to remove that cap,” Chiappinelli added.
Laroe said the 5 percent cap is “a little outdated” eight years later.
Though the fiscal year is only halfway through, the school expects to end with a surplus since the board is saving a large chunk of money on high school tuition, Sumner said.
But without removing the cap, it’s unlikely the board can transfer the allowable 50 percent of the surplus to the reserve fund since it’s almost full.
Board member Kate Barnes expects the public to question why the board wants the cap eliminated, and members should be prepared to carefully explain their reasoning. Chiappinelli agreed he was uncertain what the general response would be.
“It doesn’t hurt to ask,” Laroe said. “Put it out there.”
The board has yet to approve official language for the measure, but voters can expect to see it on this year’s ballot. The next regular board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. in the GEMS library.