FULTON COUNTY, Ga. – Facing an improving but still uncertain economic outlook, the Fulton County Board of Education has opted to provide staff a one-time 3 percent bonus instead of a 2.5 percent pay increase for the 2014-2015 school year.
Members of the school board and system leaders had expressed concern about dipping into reserve funds to balance the budget for next year, especially for permanent expenses such as pay increases.
"Until economic conditions show greater improvement, an ongoing expense like a recurring pay raise is not viable," said Fulton Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa. "A one-time payment allows us to reward employees for their hard work and commitment while still staying mindful to our district's overall long-term financial health."
The discussions were held during the board's April 29 retreat, and voted in during the May 15 board meeting as part of the tentative budget. The final budget will be adopted in June when the tax revenue numbers are finalized from the Fulton County Tax Assessor's Office.
Avossa said employee compensation remains a top priority for his administration, but also is the primary budget expense. A 2.5 percent raise would add more than $14 million annually to the budget. This year, the state provided additional funds to schools for staff compensation, which Fulton is passing on through the bonuses.
This is the third consecutive year that Fulton staff has received a one-time bonus in lieu of pay increases. The last raise for staff came in 2009.
The tentative budget for the 2015 fiscal year includes revenues of $836 million against expenditures of $878 million. The $42 million shortfall will be taken from system reserves for one-time expenses. The fund balance will still contain $142 million at the end of the fiscal year; well within the system goal of 1.5 percent of operating expenses.
Other highlights of next year's budget include:
• Adding one day to the school year (from 177 instructional days to 178 days).
• Increasing the per pupil expenditure to $200 per student.
• Hiring additional teachers to account for growth.