Carroll County Schools projected a need to use $2.25 million of its reserves to balance its budget this year. Instead, the system added $643,000 to the fund equity.
According to Chief Financial Officer James Fulford's financial report at the board of education's work session Monday night, the school system ended the year with $13.8 million in the reserves, when it was projected to end the year with $10.7 million, a $3.1 million turnaround.
"This was a collective effort from every employee within the school district to obtain these savings," Fulford said, referring to the $2.2 million saved from what was budgeted for the year.
The system also finished Fiscal Year 2013 receiving $884,000 more in revenues than budgeted, according to the June financial report. Fulford said the largest increase was in the collection of local revenues, responsible for $733,000 of revenue.
Overall, Carroll County Schools under-expended the budget by more than 2 percent, with the biggest savings coming from direct instruction and transportation (more than $900,000 and $600,000 saved in these two budget elements, respectively).
Fulford said the July financial report was not complete, as the financial department has been processing the fiscal year-end, a process that's taking a little longer than usual because of the new accounting software, as well as the transition of CFOs.
SPLOST receipts for June were down nearly 15 percent, standing at $925,000. Receipts in July were just more than $950,000, down almost 9 percent.
The board also heard its first enrollment report for the new school year that started last Thursday.
As of Monday, 13,807 K-12 students were enrolled, a number that's 81 students higher than last year's day-three count of 13,726.
Superintendent Scott Cowart said the report was the first time in three years that the system started school with more students than projected.
"I'm glad we've turned the numbers around a little bit," Cowart said. "And I want the board to remember that our demographics have changed in Carroll County, and this number won't ramp up quickly, but it should be on a steady increase."
According to the full report published on the system's eBoard website, the biggest surprise as far as the projections versus how many students were actually enrolled was found in the Temple cluster, where 117 more students showed up than were projected.
The individual school that made the largest gain between what was predicted and what was actual was also the system's largest school in population, Villa Rica High. The school had 77 students more than the system anticipated.
Cowart said the first two days of school were the "smoothest smart" he's seen in 34 years in education.
"That doesn't happen if you don't have good people doing their best work," the superintendent said.
Also during Monday's work session:
• The board received a marketing brochure that has been in the hopper for a few months, outlining for students the many pathways to graduation the school system offers.
The brochure details the nearly two-dozen paths a student can take to turning the tassel, broken into subsets of traditional, non-traditional and accelerated pathways.
"We wanted a way to communicate all our options," said Stan Davis, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning. "We have an enormous amount of opportunities, and we want to make sure our students and parents understand how many different ways they can get to graduation."
The targeted audience of the marketing piece will be eighth- and ninth-graders, Davis said — students who are deciding what they want to do after high school.
Board chairman Dr. Jon Anderson said he felt the communication would have an influence on one of the system's main goals of improvement.
"I think this will have a huge impact on our graduation rates in the next three to five years," Anderson said. "It's a great way to get all the information out there in a fast, detailed way."
Included in the brochure as pathways are the traditional academic core classes pathway, dual enrollment at either the University of West Georgia or West Georgia Technical College, 12 for Life and several others.
• The board also heard updates on the numerous construction projects ongoing at various schools, all of which were able to open for students on the first day of school last week.
At Sand Hill Elementary, the biggest undertaking of the past year, the fire marshal approved the school's opening for last Thursday. However, the project is not complete yet, assistant superintendent Dave Goldberg said.
"Work remains to be done on the grounds and parking lots before the project is 100 percent complete," Goldberg said. "Once it's all the way done, we will have a grand opening celebration."
Goldberg said it will probably be "another month or so" before the project is fully complete.
The Central High addition and renovation project was able to open Thursday with temporary flooring and used furniture in some of the classrooms. The CHS project was completed well ahead of schedule, originally due to be complete before the holiday break.
Demolition has been completed, and the new parking lot at CHS is under construction, Goldberg said.
The system will accept bid proposals on the Villa Rica Elementary project Sept. 12, Goldberg said, ready for the board's potential approval at its September meeting.
Upon questioning from board member Rob Cleveland, Goldberg said the VRES project, which includes a new gymnasium, front office and media center, will most likely break ground sometime in November, possibly earlier.