The Wilkes Journal-Patriot recently published an overview of Wilkes County Schools finances. It is a good window into how school districts manage their money and some of the constraints on them.
Here are a few highlights and observations:
According to Wilkes School Finance Director Seth Prevette, district officials were surprised to see a sizable profit from the child nutrition program, which netted $150,000 this year but only $14,000 last year. Federal regulations have led to decreased participation in the school lunch program and have made profitability a challenge for Wilkes County and school districts across the state.
Speaking of federal regulations, supplemental food sales in Wilkes County Schools are a fraction of what they were before the implementation of nutritional standards pushed by the Obama administration. According to the article, “before federal legislation requiring higher school food nutritional standards took effect, the Wilkes school system had over $1 million in supplemental food sales. It had $425,000 in supplemental food sales two years ago, $358,000 the next year and $303,000 in the year that just ended. Supplemental food includes sandwiches and other items sold individually and not as part of free school meals.”
The article also indicates expenses related to the pension of a former superintendent. “Prevette said the school system put $590,694 in a court escrow account earlier this year in case the Wilkes school board lost its appeal of having to pay that amount to fund the pension of Dr. Marty Hemric, retired Wilkes school superintendent.”
The district has an unrestricted fund balance of $3.6 million. That is around 4 percent of the district’s $95 million budget.
To summarize, federal child nutrition regulations and superintendent pensions were the biggest drags on the school budget last year. The former can be corrected by the Trump administration, while the latter is in the hands of the courts.