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Sophie B. Wright approved school budget months ago, apparently failed to make required public announcements

The Sophie B. Wright Board announced an 8-percent increase for its 2012-2013 operating budget.Despite state open meetings laws, which require public bodies to give ten days’ notice before presenting a budget and which require public discussion before a budget can be passed, the board of Sophie B. Wright apparently hastily approved a budget in a special meeting convened in mid-April.

A school representative told The Lens that the only public notice was listed on a sheet of paper posted on the school’s entrance doors referencing the budget meeting.

The 2012-2013 budget is $5.1 million, up from $4.7 million last year.

Most of the revenue, about 84 percent of the budget, comes from state allocated-per pupil funds. Budgeting for 516 students, state funding is expected to be $4.2 million, up $800,000 from last year with the addition of 70 students. Other revenue sources, donations, federal special education grants and the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) funds are up slightly from last year.

In expenditures,  salaries and increased costs for employee benefits make up 73 percent of school spending, relatively flat when compared to last year’s expenses. Salaries, 60 percent of expenses, are expected to be $2.9 million, up $400,000 from last year, reflecting new hires and some salary increases.

Conservative estimates for benefit expenses total $640,000, much less than the last year’s $864,000 total. A school official said the discrepancy relates to teacher hires made relatively recently. Thus, the first quarterly budget will list much higher expenses for teacher benefits.

Purchased services, such as transportation, building insurance & maintenance, legal services, contracted special education services and other repairs are $418,000, twice what they were in last year’s budget. The relatively large increase is a result of a paid lump sum for building insurance which is expected to cover the school for the next few years, in addition to temporary facilities costs that will help the school to house a growing student body.

Other expenditures include utilities, materials and supplies, food services and equipment and furnishings costs, which total $682,000, a 9 percent increase from last year.

The school expects expenses to continue to increase as more budget items are properly accounted for; therefore, the $200,000 surplus listed in the most recent budget is not expected to exist in future versions.

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