The Liberty County School System’s preliminary fiscal-year 2016-17 budget shows an overall increase compared to this year’s budget because of added funding from the Georgia Department of Education.
The proposed spending plan is $100.7 million, an increase of $3 million from the current budget, said Roger Reese, district chief financial officer. Expenses totaled $100 million, leaving $700,000 to go to the reserve fund. In the 2015-16 budget, the district had $1 million in reserve.
Reese presented the budget in April during a Board of Education meeting. According to the presentation, the increase is due to an additional $2 million from the state and $1 million in Impact Aid funds. The additional funding includes money to reduce state austerity cuts. Revenue also includes $6.8 million in state equalization money, which is given to supplement the property-tax revenue because Liberty County is not as wealthy as other Georgia counties. The district will receive $400,000 more in equalization money than in fiscal 2016.
Reese said the district lost around $800,000 because of a decrease in the full-time equivalent number. FTE is based on the number of students who receive services on a particular day. This snapshot is taken twice a year and reported to the state Department of Education. Students who receive extra services, such as special education, can increase the FTE number. However, because FTE focuses on a particular day, not all students who receive services are accounted for, resulting in a lower FTE number and, therefore, less funding. The FTE number for 2016 was 9,663 and fell to 9,520 for fiscal 2017.
Even so, funding from state and federal sources has increased, Reese said, while revenue from local and other sources will remain the same. Charter system funds are included in money from the state.
The spending plan includes a new district-level job and positions that have been modified.
The new position is for a teacher leader primarily over science, technology, engineering, arts and math initiatives.
A part-time bus mechanic will become full-time, there will be an increased work year for assistant directors in the Human Resources Department and a testing and assessment coordinator. School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee said earlier that the testing and assessment coordinator will replace the current director of evaluation, assessment and accountability position. Dr. Jennifer Walts is the director of assessment and is retiring. The change in positions, added job and benefits will cost $261,000.
The health-insurance rate for non-certified employees’ increased from $746.20 per member monthly to $846.20. School districts are required by the state to pay the rate difference per employee, which will cost $209,400. The budget also includes funds for school furniture and repairs, and a 3 percent salary raise for all employees, along with all eligible employees moving up a step on the salary scale.
Budget expenses include:
- $61.5 million for instruction,
- $6.2 million for administration,
- $8.4 million for maintenance and operations, and
- $6.2 million for school nutrition.
Reese discussed the state’s 2016-17 budget for kindergarten through 12th grade public education.
The state budgeted $10.6 billion, which includes:
- $300 million to reduce austerity cuts, eliminate teacher furlough days and increase teacher salaries.
- $124 million for enrollment growth, training and education.
- Three percent salary adjustment for nurses, bus drivers and lunchroom workers.
- Continued health insurance for non-certified staff.
- Bonds — $14.3 million for school buses and $223.2 million on school construction projects.
- Prekindergarten program — $28.6 million of lottery funds for a new compensation model; $1.1 million of lottery funds for a one-time materials grant for pre-K classrooms.
Reese said the pre-K pay scale will remain the same with an increase in program funding.
Hearings for the budget are scheduled for 10 a.m. May 31 and 5:30 p.m. June 14 in the board room. The final budget will be adopted June 14 during the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting.