The School Board on Thursday, May 17, 2018, reviewed the Superintendent of Schools’ recommended tentative Annual Budget for 2018-19, which calls for continued reduction in class sizes, greater spending on safety and security measures and no tax rate increase.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower during the School Board’s work session presented the budget, which the Board tabled at its regular meeting, as is routine to allow for further review and three public hearings. The hearings will be at 11:30 a.m. June 13 and 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. June 21 in the Board’s auditorium, followed by a vote on the budget at the 7 p.m. regular meeting on June 21.
The general fund, which is CCSD’s day-to-day operating budget, will grow to $406 Million for next school year from the current $385 Million, as a result of anticipated student enrollment growth of 750 students, the restoration of the final $4 Million in State “austerity budget cuts,” and a property tax digest that has finally recovered to 2008 pre-Recession levels.
The millage property tax rate is proposed to remain unchanged at 19.45 mills, and the budget calls for retaining $47 Million in reserves. The building fund budget, which includes voter-approved Education SPLOST construction and technology projects, is planned to total $41 Million.
“We’re certainly thankful,” Chief Financial Officer Ken Owen said, after reporting on the first full “austerity budget cut” restoration since 2002 and the recovery of the Recession’s 30% drop in local property values. “We’ve finally caught back up.”
The recovered funding is directed primarily back into the classroom, with instructional spending amounting to 67.5% of the operating budget, which overall calls for 87% of all expenditures to pay for personnel costs. The increased classroom spending will add enough teachers – 55 – to bring average class sizes back to pre-Recession levels – a major priority for School Board Members.
“I really appreciate that you took our priorities and made them come to fruition so they’ll benefit our students,” School Board Chair Kyla Cromer said following the presentation by Dr. Hightower and Mr. Owen. “That’s huge, and I appreciate it.”
Another significant focus is increased spending on safety and security, with measures funded in the budget including the hiring of an additional three CCSD School Police Department POST-certified police officers and two more school counselors and investing nearly $1 Million in the building fund to expedite construction of security foyers.
Other budget funding priorities include providing longevity step raises and a 1% cost-of-living salary increase to all eligible employees to maintain competitive compensation and bumping the starting teacher salary by $500 to $43,000. The budget also calls for purchasing 30 school buses to replace older vehicles and hiring additional bus drivers and monitors, and expanding the school nurse and instructional lead strategist teacher coaches programs.
“Our School District is only as good as its employees, and I believe that investing in our people will pay dividends, with the ultimate outcome of student success and achievement,” Dr. Hightower said.
During its work session the School Board also heard a presentation by the independent external auditor, who reported the 2016-17 fiscal year audit received a clean opinion with no new findings or unresolved prior findings.
The School Board also:
- Recognized the Office of Curriculum & Instruction for its leadership that led to CCSD being named an Innovative District for 2018 by International Center for Leadership in Education – one of only 11 school districts in the National to earn the designation;
- Recognized CCSD’s 2017-18 Positive Athlete Regional Winners and Scholarship Winners, and State Award winner Woodstock HS senior Trevor Melehan;
- Recognized Cherokee HS freshman Rebekah Seng, recipient of Congressional Award, Bronze Medal;
- Recognized CCSD’s 2018 Georgia Scholars;
- Recognized CCSD’s 2017-18 Governor’s Honors Finalists;
- Recognized Creekview HS Aeronautics Rocketry Team as National Champions and International Qualifiers (competition is this summer) and its Drone Team as National Qualifiers (competition is this summer), and Creekland MS Aeronautics as National Qualifiers;
- Recognized Mill Creek MS as a Common Sense Certified School for Digital Citizenship;
- Recognized Georgia High School Association State and Regional Champions including students and coaches from the Cherokee HS Literary, Creekview HS Girls Lacrosse, Tennis and Soccer and Etowah HS Track & Field teams:
- Recognized CCSD’s 2018 Aramark Education Scholarship winners;
- Recognized the 2017-18 Student Advisor to School Board and Student Delegates for their service and commitment and presented each with graduation honor cords;
- Approved monthly financial reports;
- Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips and professional development;
- Approved special lease agreements;
- Approved monthly personnel recommendations; and,
- Approved the 2018-19 Discipline Code.
Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, June 21, 2018