Additional resource officers, no teacher furlough days and an increase in the price of school lunches are among the highlights in Gwinnett County Public Schools' 2013-2014 draft budget.
The budget represents recommendations from the district's superintendent, J. Alvin Wilbanks. Today (March 26) is the first day citizens will hear about the budget during area school board meetings. In Lilburn, that meeting is scheduled for April 2.
The first public hearing on the budget will be May 9. The second public hearing, the final budget adoption, and adoption of a tentative millage rate will be May 16. The final adoption of the millage rate will be in June.
Below is a snapshot of the highlights. Patch will provide more details in the coming weeks.
2013-2014 Budget Highlights:
1. How much is the budget, and is it more than last year?
The total budget is $1.763 billion. This represents a decrease of $12.8 million or .7 percent.
2. How much is the general fund budget, and what does that mean anyhow?
The general fund budget is the operating money of the school district -- how it runs day-to-day. Most of it is for instructional purposes. It is the largest chunk of the total budget, representing 71.4 percent
In the recommended budget, the general fund is $1.258 billion, which is an increase of 2.4 percent over the previous year.
3. Does this mean there will be a millage increase?
That is likely, but the district will not know how much that will be until around June, when more information is available on local property taxes.
Right now, the property tax digest is estimated to decline by an additional 2.5 percent. This decrease would result in a loss of $10.3 million at the current rate of 19.5 mills.
If there is a millage rate increase, it will be the first in eight years. However, district finance officials say it would only be a slight increase.
4. How does the new "Title Tax" affect the district?
In the capitol projects fund, the school district will lose approximately $10 million in sales tax revenue next year due to the elimination of sales tax on newly purchased vehicles. But, it will receive $7.8 million from the new "title tax" for the general fund budget for next year.
5. Will teachers have furlough days next year?
The superintendent's budget calls for no teacher furlough days. This year there were two. Teachers were compensated for one of those days in November.
The average teacher would see a $587 annual increase in salary, with increases ranging from $393 to $913.
Teachers have not received a salary increase of any kind since the 2010 fiscal year.
5. How much is the district expected to spend for each student?
The average amount spent per student increases in the recommended budget by $102 to $7,548. This is a 1.4 percent increase.
6. Are class sizes going up?
No. Despite a projected increase in enrollment of 1,690 students for a total of 166,667 students, officials say the class size ratio will stay the same. This would be the first time in five years that class sizes have not increased.
7. Does the enrollment increase mean more teachers?
Yes, there will be more teachers. Approximately 85 additional teacher positions will open due to enrollment increases. This is estimated to cost the district $6.2 million.
Overall, the district expects to need about 575 new teachers to start in August, with many being in special education.
8. More students mean more children to keep safe. What is the district doing about campus security?
In the superintendent's budget, 18 school resource officers are recommended. This would mean one additional officer per cluster. This has been a department request in prior years.
9. What about school lunches? Are parents going to shell out more money?
Yes. According to the recommended budget, meal prices will increase .25. This is, in part, due to new federal mandates. Lunch prices would be $2.25 for elementary students, and $2.50 for middle school and high school students.
10. How does the district plan to cut costs in order to balance the budget?
In part, the district will continue the hiring freeze at the district level, which amounts to $2 million; will not restore the 54 central office positions eliminated in the current year; and will continue district-level operating budget cuts over the past four years, which saves $9.7 million.
Have school news or story idea you want to share, contact Local Editor Joy L. Woodson at Joy.Woodson@patch.com or 404-539-9256.