The Fulton School Board has approved the tentative budget for Fiscal Year 2020, a spending plan that includes across-the-board raises for employees but few new items for program expansions at the school level.
To balance the $1.6 billion spending plan, the board approved a one-time draw down of $12.7 million from the system’s healthy reserve funds. The FY20 budget is a slight decrease from the current year’s $1.7 budget, primarily due to lower projected enrollment.
The FY20 budget picture was much brighter this month after early signs signaled a potential $25 million shortfall in funding. The increases in expenditures were due mainly to raises for employees, lower state revenue because of lower enrollment, and the increase in the district’s contribution to the teacher retirement fund.
To hedge a shortfall, the district immediately looked to cut $20 million in non-instruction expenses, primarily at the central office level. In all, 56 positions systemwide were eliminated, and other cost-cutting measures were implemented — none of which will affect the classroom, officials said.
“The largest investment [in the budget] is the allocation to schools,” explained Marvin Dereef, deputy financial officer for Fulton Schools. “The $852 million [allocated for FY20] is a 1.16 percent increase from the current budget and represents 79 percent of the general fund.”
The general fund is the primary operating fund for the district and includes all revenue and expenditures of the district not covered by another funding source, such as school nutrition.
Chief Talent Officer Ron Wade said the district will pass on the $3,000 raises the state passed this year. The district had previously recommended a $2,775 raise but will provide the full allocation to teachers. Additionally, all teacher support positions will get a 3 percent raise; all other district employees will see a 2 percent increase.
The total cost of all raises will add $38 million to the FY20 budget. Wade said the state is looking to add an additional $2,000 raise for teachers next year; fulfilling the promise Gov. Brian Kemp made to teachers during his campaign.
Salaries and benefits comprise nearly 84 percent of the entire general fund budget, with supplies, utilities, materials and other non-instruction related expenses making up the remaining 16 percent.
Despite the draw down in Fulton Schools’ reserve fund, the balance remains at $173 million, well above the recommended 15 percent of the total budget.
Dereef said the FY20 budget is fully funded without an increase in the millage rate, which is expected to remain at 17.796 mills. He noted this rate will continue to be the lowest millage rate among metro Atlanta school districts.
Prior to adoption of final budgets, the community is invited to attend public budget hearings on May 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the North Learning Center, and May 16, 2019, 6:30 p.m., at the South Learning Center.
The board is expected to formally approve the FY20 budget on May 16, and the final millage rates on May 16.