Every employee in the Muscogee County School District, except substitute teachers, would receive some sort of salary increase if the Muscogee County School Board approves the fiscal year 2018 budget, which the board tentatively adopted during its called meeting Monday evening.
The board will vote on final adoption of the FY 2018 budget in a called meeting June 26, starting at 5:30 p.m. The board decided to keep the regular monthly meeting as scheduled for June 19, starting at 6 p.m. MCSD’s fiscal year begins July 1.
Some of the numbers MCSD chief financial officer Theresa Thornton presented to the board during Monday’s meeting changed since the proposed budget initially was presented in April. That’s because, Thornton explained, the April numbers were based on projections and the June numbers are based on the actual notification of allotments the district received from the state in May.
The total expenditures and transfers for FY 2018 would be $288,819,039, an increase of 5.16 percent over the FY 2017 adopted budget of $274,660,024. The total revenue for FY 2018 is projected to be $270,519,736, an increase of 1.3 percent over the FY 2017 revenue of $267,040,971. The millage rate would remain at 23.37 for the 21st straight year.
To plug the gap, Superintendent David Lewis has recommended using $18,299,303 of the fund balance, reducing that reserve from $56,986,524 to $38,687,221. That would cut the number of operating days in the fund balance from 62.44 to 36.25. The Government Finance Officers Association recommends a minimum of 60 days.
Cathy Williams of District 7 defended dipping into the fund balance when she declared that the budget’s system-wide salary raises “relect the district’s values.” Lewis noted his administration is exploring ways to increase revenue or cut expenses by “looking at closing schools.” He previously has promised he wouldn’t proposed any school closing without notifying the public at least by the January before the school year ends in May.
Frank Myers of District 8 is the only board member who spoke against the tentative budget, on which he abstained in the 5-0-1 vote, or the millage rate, on which he voted no in the 5-1 vote. Myers asserted MCSD must devote “millions of dollars” more toward helping students read on grade level by third grade. He didn’t say why he voted against the millage rate, but he previously has argued keeping the rate at the same level while benefiting from the additional revenue generated by economic growth essentially is a tax increase. State law also calls it a tax increase.
Voting yes on the tentative budget and the millage rate were board chairwoman Pat Hugley Green of District 1, Naomi Buckner of District 4, Laurie McRae of District 5, Mark Cantrell of District 6 and Williams. Countywide representative Kia Chambers, John Thomas of District 2 and Vanessa Jackson of District 3 were absent.
Highlights of the district’s FY 2018 spending plan include:
▪ 2 percent salary increase for certificated staff, based on the raise designated for teachers in the state’s budget.
▪ Salary step increase within the state’s schedule.
▪ Mandated salary increase for bus drivers and nurses.
▪ Wage and salary increase for non-certificated staff, including part time.
▪ Salary adjustment for security personnel, complying with new hourly rate.
▪ Increase in State Health Benefit Plan employer cost for non-certificated staff from $846.20 per member per month to $945, which is the same rate as teachers.
▪ Increase in Teacher Retirement System employer rate from 14.27 percent to 16.81 percent.
▪ Increase in Public School Employees’ Retirement System 403B employer contribution from 1 percent to 2 percent.
▪ Eliminate out-of-county and out-of-state tuition for students who are children of MCSD full-time employees.
▪ Initial staffing for the Rainey-McCullers School of the Arts, being constructed for middle school and high school students.
▪ Projected 1 percent increase in the local property tax digest due to economic growth.
▪ 1.5 mills ($6.5 million) for Chattahoochee Valley Libraries.
▪ One-fourth of a mill ($500,000) set aside for capital projects.
Williams noted the state’s austerity reductions since 2003 amount to $192,661,587 in less revenue for MCSD if the Quality Basic Education act’s formula were fully funded. But the past several years, Thornton noted, the austerity reductions have decreased from a high of $29,126,485 in 2010 to $2,951,039 for FY 2018.