After a public hearing that no one attended, the Bartow County School Board approved its tentative budget for fiscal year 2019 that includes a one-time pay supplement for eligible employees and no austerity reductions by the state for the first time in more than 15 years.
Board members voted 5-0 at a called meeting Monday night to approve the tentative balanced general fund budget of $118.9 million that doesn't look balanced at first glance.
The budget lists revenues at $118,888,601 and expenditures at $119,788,432, but the $899,831 difference comes from the one-time pay supplement, according to Chief Financial Officer Megan Brown.
The supplement is being funded by money left over from the fiscal year 2018 expenses, but since it's not being paid out until December — fiscal year 2019 — it has to be reported as an expenditure in the FY19 budget, she said.
"The additional money that we're putting in the fund balance resulted from a combination of minimal excess revenue and conservative spending [in 2018]," she said. "All across the school system, all employees have been very conservative in their spending."
The school district's third consecutive balanced budget increased about 1 percent over fiscal year 2018, according to Brown.
"There's not a lot of major changes from last year to this year," she said.
Pointing out some of the highlights, Brown said austerity has been a "hot topic this year" since Gov. Nathan Deal announced he was eliminating the reductions by fully funding Quality Basic Education in the state's 2019 budget, which will give school systems more money.
"Since 2003, the total amount of austerity that was charged to the system was over $75 million," she said.
The Teacher Retirement System, a state-mandated expense, is taking a larger chunk of the FY19 budget. The system's contribution jumped from 16.81 percent this year to 20.91 percent next year, costing an extra $2.6 million in the new budget, Brown said.
"You see in 2012 where it was 10.28 percent," she said. "So from 2012 to 2019, we've spent $6.5 million more a year so cumulatively, that does add up."
Another state-mandated expense is health insurance for classified employees, which was $246 a month per employee in 2012 but now is $945 a month per employee, Brown said.
"That's a total cost per employee of $11,360 a year," she said. "So for some of our employees, we are paying more in health insurance costs than we are in salaries. If you add the TRS contribution for the district and the health insurance, it's over $10 million a year of additional cost."
The 2019 budget also includes $70.9 million for salaries, with about $1 million set aside for step increases for eligible employees, and $32.2 million for benefits for all employees. There will be no furloughs, and all employees will return to 236 contract days, Brown said.
The projected revenue is $45.8 million from local sources, $72.8 million from the state QBE and $300,000 from federal sources for FY19.
"We did budget with the current tax data that we have," Brown said. "We have no indication of what taxes are going to be this year, so we just used the current tax data that we have for the 2018 year."
As for expenditures, there "weren't major differences," Brown said.
"We've already talked about the TRS increase, which was almost $2.9 million," she said. "The step increase for all eligible employees, that'll be about $1 million. Full-year employees are fully restored back. … They have been 231 days for about five years now so the budget currently has all 231[-day] employees back to full contract, which is 236 days, and that cost was about $200,000."
The district also will be adding several new positions in FY19: four exceptional education paraprofessionals, a part-time assistant principal for the Bartow County College and Career Academy, two elementary school assistant principals and a security officer.
As required by House Bill 65, the board will hold its second public hearing on the budget Monday, June 11, at 5:30 p.m. and will adopt the final budget Monday, June 18, at 5 p.m.
During the regular business meeting that followed the called meetings, board members unanimously approved: