During the Fulton County Board of Education’s April 11 work session at the North Learning Center in Sandy Springs, interim Superintendent Cindy Loe presented budget recommendations for fiscal 2020 (i.e. the 2019-20 academic year), which focused on compensation for employees and alignment with the Fulton district’s five-year strategic plan. The compensation recommendations currently include a $3,000 salary increase, as approved by the General Assembly and currently awaiting signature by Gov. Brian Kemp, and a mid-year step for teachers (all paid from the teacher salary schedules), principals, assistant principals, counselors, media specialists, school social workers, school psychologists and pre-k teachers. The mid-year step will go into effect in January.

Paraprofessionals, parent liaisons, clinic aides, bus drivers, transportation assistants, food service workers and custodians would receive a 3% salary increase plus a mid-year step if recommendations are approved. The 3% increase for these employees represents a deliberate effort by the board and district leaders to tangibly recognize the steady contribution these employees make while being among the district’s lowest-wage earners. All other district positions are recommended to receive a 2% salary increase plus a mid-year step if approved. Step increases will become applicable in the January payroll for eligible employees.

To meet the increase due to these salary adjustments, the superintendent is recommending balancing the budget with $12.7 million from the fund balance. This is 50% less than the $25 million estimated in March, thanks to the additional funds anticipated to be added in the state’s fiscal 2020 budget bill as referenced earlier.

These are the latest adjustments in the district’s annual budget process, which began in August 2018 in preparation for the next fiscal year. As recommendations were considered, sustainability was discussed regarding future years, including continuation of a fund balance above 15%, while projecting a current millage rate of 17.796 into fiscal 2020. During the development of the budget this year, our efforts targeted a $20 million reduction of expenditures to address a tax revenue shortfall, combined with benefit cost increases, while minimizing impact to the fund balance or a need to increase the current millage rate.

The board is expected to adopt the tentative budget and millage rate at its next meeting April 18 at the South Learning Center in Union City. The public is invited to attend that meeting and the ones to follow, when the final budget and millage rates will be presented and then adopted. Those meetings are as follows:

♦ April 18: adoption of tentative budget and millage rate

♦ May 7 at noon and 6 p.m.: public hearings 1 and 2 on the budget and millage rates

♦ May 16: public hearing 3 on millage rates and final adoption of the budget and millage rates

Millage rate hearings are subject to change contingent upon availability of tax digest information. More information is available by visiting fultonschools.org.

Also presented during the April 11 work session was an annual update of the capital budget, which included a review of Capital Plan 2022. This summer will be one of the busiest years of the five-year construction program. A status report was shared regarding the following projects: Innovation Academy (the North STEM High School); the South STEM School that will serve grades 6 to 12; school replacement projects for Riverwood High, Crabapple Middle, Conley Hills Elementary and McClarin High; a new South Transportation and Maintenance Facility; major district information technology initiatives and 26 school renovation projects are planned with 18 security camera upgrades beginning this summer.

According to expert opinions regarding market conditions and capital cost increases, Capital Plan 2022 continues to gain momentum. Monthly SPLOST revenue receipts are exceeding projections which, combined with market conditions, are indicators of a strong economy. While there are anticipated cost increases in construction and IT due to these market conditions, the increased revenue receipts are forecast to meet district needs. Projections for SPLOST, state capital outlay and other revenue sources will allow us to address budget increases and maintain healthy capital reserve funds to hedge against risks during the program.

Previously, the district has used short-term borrowing through tax anticipation notes to execute the program. However, at this time, cash flow projections are not indicating the need for any similar short-term borrowing to execute Capital Plan 2022.

According to a news release, the district will continue to review and update its budgets and cash flows as conditions change, but it states it’s currently on track to deliver the promises made to taxpayers.

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