FULTON COUNTY, Ga. – Fulton School System personnel will likely see the first bump in their paychecks in five years with a proposed 3 percent raise included in the fiscal year 2014 budget. However federal funding cuts because of sequestration will likely result in the loss of 23 to 40 positions in special education.
During the April 18 board meeting, members got their first look at the proposed FY14 budget, which will go into effect on July 1. The $836.5 million general budget reflects a slight decrease from the current year budget, yet still proposes no increase in millage rate and includes a 3 percent salary increase, as well as other school-based enhancements.
Budget officials attribute the improving outlook of the economy, conservative budgeting over the past several years and other factors which led to the recommendation for employee raises and other positive impacts.
“The past few years have been tough financially for school systems but the Fulton School Board made difficult funding decisions [in past years], and this puts us in a much better financial situation today,” said Superintendent Robert Avossa.
Under the proposed budget, schools will receive an additional $44 per student, and supplements for employees involved in athletics and extracurricular activities will also receive a 10 percent increase for their additional duties.
In developing the FY14 budget, school officials pointed to a new budgeting process that allowed them to do more with less going forward. Last year, the school board approved a modified zero-based budget approach that made financial planning a year-long process. The new process requires departmental budgets be developed from the bottom up and based on need rather than just last year’s figures carried forward.
“Zero-based budgeting required our school system to align its funding requests to district priorities,” said Avossa. “Department heads presented their budgets, and our cabinet evaluated each item closely so we would be sure that every request directly tied to the priorities and that every taxpayer dollar would be spent as it should.”
Direct instruction will continue to consume the greatest portion of the budget, with 67 percent of total funds used primarily for salaries of those who work directly with students. The remaining 33 percent is budgeted for pupil transportation, maintenance and operations and other administrative functions.
The only dark spot going into next year is the loss of federal funds for the special education program, which will require a reduction of up to 40 paraprofessional positions. While exact figures have not been released by the federal government, Fulton School officials are anticipating a 6 to 8 percent cut in Title VI-B funds, which translates to a reduction from $704,000 to $1.2 million from this year.
A spokesperson for the department said cuts will impact only staff that do not work directly with students, and are there more as a “second set of hands” for teachers. Currently, there are 530 paraprofessionals in the Fulton School System, so the cuts represent less than a 10 percent reduction.
The school board is expected to review the budget again next month, with tentative approval slated for May 16. Final approval will occur in June.