Fulton County Schools’ proposed $1.071 billion budget for the 2019-20 academic year/fiscal 2020 is only $21 million (2%) more than the 2018-19 budget, but the increase includes a $38 million hike for staff raises.

“Originally the budget was $1.051 billion, but it had to be reworked to include the $3,000 salary increase for teachers (approved by the state), plus a 3% pay increase for hard-to-staff positions, like food service workers and school bus drivers, and a 2% pay hike for all other positions,” said Marvin Dereef Jr., the district’s deputy chief financial officer.

The 2019-20 budget was approved 7-0 by the Fulton Board of Education during its May 16 meeting at the South Learning Center in Union City. Since October, school administrators and school board members had worked to develop it.

In January, the district began to follow Gov. Brian Kemp’s state budget proposal, though the Georgia Legislature whittled down his proposed $5,000 salary increase for certified teachers and personnel to $3,000 when the raises were approved in March.

According to Fulton district Chief Financial Officer Robert Morales, the district used a modified zero- based budgeting approach to develop the fiscal 2020 budget.

With the final budget having been adopted by the board, that decision provides the legal authority to publish the budget on the district’s public website and allow staff to work with district personnel and the various jurisdictions within the county to ensure tax bills are issued timely.

However, Morales said, the district has yet to receive a tax digest for the county.

The fiscal 2020 budget, as proposed by interim Superintendent Cindy Loe, reflects a maintenance and operations millage rate that is proposed to remain at 17.796 mils.

“Thinking about the budget process, we started out cutting $20 million from the budget, and then we had to find a way to budget these salary increases the General Assembly approved,” Morales said. “In order to make it happen, we had to use about $12 million from our fund balance.”

Dereef said a total of $38 million is being included in the district’s budget for teacher/staff member raises.

“(It) is utilizing $10 million to cover the gap beyond the $28 million being provided by the state,” he said. “Also, in order to make the salary increase possible, the district had to cut $20 million in expenditures because of the expected decline in local revenue and the rise in the state local fair share which has a negative effect on our QBE funding. The budget was balanced by using $12 million of fund balance.”

Morales said he was pleased the district was able to find a way to fund these salary increases, “and we were able to find a little extra to pay for the salary increases for those hard to fill jobs.” As to how these salary increases will impact students, Morales said it will help to attract quality teachers.

“We want these teachers to think Fulton first,” he said.

Board President and District 4 representative Linda Bryant said the district has a strong budget this year.

“I think this pay increase will impact our children in a great way, as not only will it attract great teachers but it will help Fulton County retain the great teachers we already have,” she said.

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