For the first time ever, the Bulloch County Schools general-fund budget is poised to exceed $100 million in fiscal 2020, according to preliminary numbers Chief Financial Officer Troy Brown recently gave the Board of Education.
But much of a projected 5.8 percent, $5.57 million percent overall rise in revenue and a 7.9 percent, $7.39 million, rise in spending will be a pass-through of state funding for a pay raise and related benefit costs for teachers.
Those state-mandated raises will also go to administrators and other school employees with teaching certificates, and Brown and Superintendent Charles Wilson have suggested locally funded raises for all other regular employees. The board is slated to receive more information on the overall budget when it meets again Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
"I'm sure if you've kept up with what was going on in Atlanta with the governor's promises of a $5,000 salary increase for certified employees — that was a campaign promise — you know that's gone varied and different places over the past several months," Brown remarked to board members during their April 11 meeting.
As he noted, the state-funded teacher raise, which was reduced and increased again through the legislative process, ended up at $3,000.
The Bulloch County school system will receive a projected $2.55 million from the state to fund this raise. Another $1.1 million in added state money will be a pass-through for additional Teacher Retirement System costs resulting from the raise and from a small increase in the employer contribution percentage.
If the school system increases the local pay supplement of every teacher and other certificate-holding employees by $400, that and the $3,000 state raise will amount to a 6.1 percent average raise for them, Brown calculated.
Meanwhile, his budget presentation suggested a 7 percent increase in the base pay of support personnel, but not in the supplement they receive for experience.
"You will see that there are some sizeable increases," Brown told the board. "As we've seen what the governor has done for the certified, likewise … we're trying to do something hand-in-hand for our noncertified folks, and I know that is something that all of you have wanted to do for many years."
Paraprofessionals would get a $97 increase in monthly pay before taxes; custodians, a $91 increase; and school nutrition workers, an $87 increase.
Not for subs yet?
District 5 board member Glennera Martin had been reading ahead in a printout of Brown's presentation when she asked a question.
"I think it's great we have an increase for our paraprofessionals, custodians and school nutrition workers, but what about substitute teachers?" Martin asked.
"That is something we have not addressed in this budget," Brown said.
He suggested that the school system's leaders might wait to the end of the calendar year, to see how the overall finances are going, before boosting pay rates for substitutes. That would also mean funding those increases for only half a year in the fiscal 2020 budget.
Bus driver boost
The budget projection already included a special increase for school bus drivers. As Brown noted, the Bulloch school system, like many others, struggles to keep drivers.
Because school bus drivers work only five hours per day and only the 180 days school is in session, even a relatively large percentage increase in hourly pay would yield only a small increase in annual salary, Brown noted. With the boost of $2 per hour or $1,800 a year that he suggested, the beginning annual salary for a school bus driver would be $13,918.
Bus monitors, meanwhile, are in the Bulloch County Schools' lowest-paid bracket of employees. A suggested $1.26 increase in hourly pay would make the new annual starting salary for bus monitors $9,000.
The 7 percent base salary increase for other school support personnel plus the raises for bus personnel carry an estimated cost of $1,018,095.
The increase in local supplement for teachers and other certified employees was estimated to cost $334,000.
With these increases, Brown still projected a balanced budget, with a relatively tiny net income of $20,012 over the $101.5 million in expected revenue.
Other state funding increases include a $795,489 boost in the equalization grant meant to compensate for differences in county wealth. Altogether, state funding to the Bulloch County Schools is expected to rise by about $4.73 million, to a little over $67 million, Brown reported.
So, state money will make up about 66 percent of the county school system's projected $101.55 million revenue. The state funding for the current fiscal year was $62.34 million.
Local funding sources include a projected $32.86 million in taxes. These include the regular Local Option Sales Tax, which in Bulloch County is devoted entirely to the schools, as well as property taxes.
Brown projected 2.4 percent growth in local tax revenue, with the rates unchanged. Other, nontax local sources, such as interest on accounts, will contribute about $1.6 million to the school system's total revenue, he projected.
Thursday's discussion is slated to include other budget funds that are not part of the general fund. Under a proposed timeline, the board could vote on a tentative budget May 9 for final approval May 30.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.