The Thomas County Board of Education gave tentative approval to a fiscal 2015 budget that will fund school district operations for the 2014-2015 school year and most likely not result in a property tax increase.
The budget restores two furlough days, reducing from five to three the number of furlough days teachers will be required to take during the upcoming school year. Restoration of the two days will allow the system to return to the traditional 180-day school year for students.
Said Joey Holland, assistant superintendent for finance and system chief financial officer, “I am grateful that the Georgia General Assembly and the governor restored 30 percent of the annual reduction to our state funding. This additional funding, along with our enrollment growth, will allow us to restore some of our furlough days and reduce class sizes. My hope is that the state revenue picture continues to improve, and all of our annual $2.6 million reduction will be returned to us and allow us to eliminate all furlough days and to grant cost-of-living raises.”
The new budget includes a $2.5 million expenditure increase in the general fund. Virtually all of the increase will be accomplished with the increase in state funding.
“We don’t anticipate a major change in our local tax revenue for 2014,” Holland added. “Over the last few years, we have strived to build our fund balance up to a safe operating level of at least 10 percent of the annual budget. We have accomplished this goal with our FY 2015 budget.”
Highlights of FY 2015 budget that begins July 1, 2014 include:
• General fund revenue of $40.4 million, an increase of $1.4 million over FY 2014. The majority of this increase ($1.1 million) is from state revenue.
• Expenditures for FY 2015 budgeted at $40.7 million, a $2.5 million increase from FY 2014. The increase consists of furlough days added back to the calendar, additional staff to reduce class sizes, increases in benefit costs and increases in operational costs.
• The general fund balance at the end of FY 2015 is projected to be $4.2 million, or 10.3 percent of the system’s annual expenditures.
“For the last several years, budget cuts have required us to increase class sizes and reduce our teaching staff. For the first time in several years, we are adding back a few teaching positions due to enrollment growth and in order to reduce class sizes,” Superintendent Dr. Dusty Kornegay said.
“Much has been discussed in the state media about teachers receiving raises this year,” Kornegay added. “This is largely misleading as the state salary schedule that has been in place since 2008 is not changing. Since we are reducing the number of furlough days, teachers will see smaller reductions in their salaries as they will be taking fewer furlough days, but we are yet to see a real across-the-board increase in the state salary schedule. Many teachers are still bringing home less pay than they did in 2008 when the furlough days started.”
The budget plan approved by the board will add back two furlough days, restore about 12 teaching positions and provide a small salary increase for bus drivers.
“We anticipate being able to fund the FY 2015 budget without an increase in county school taxes,” Kornegay said. “We certainly built the budget with that intent. I will say, however, that the official tax digest has not yet been prepared, so I can never be 100 percent certain about the tax rate until the tax digest information is available. I will say that unless there is an unanticipated decrease in the tax digest, we should be able to fund the budget without an increase in the school tax millage rate.”