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Decatur School Board tentatively approves fiscal year 2023 budget, raising price of school meals

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Decatur School Board tentatively approves fiscal year 2023 budget, raising price of school meals

The cafeteria at Westchester Elementary. Photo provided to Decaturish by Allison Goodman

Decatur, GA — The City Schools of Decatur School Board tentatively approved the fiscal year 2023 budget and approved a 50 cent increase for school meals at the April 12 meeting. CSD’s current fiscal year, 2022, ends on June 30 and fiscal year 2023 begins on July 1. The next budget will need to be approved by July 1.

The school board will hold a budget hearing on May 10 at 6:15 p.m. At the May 10 school board meeting, they will adopt the final FY23 budget and tentatively approve the millage rate. The millage rate will be approved in June, following three public hearings.

The FY23 budget reflects $3.8 million in operational budget cuts, which Chief Financial Officer Lonita Broome and Superintendent Maggie Fehrman presented at the March 8 school board meeting.

Throughout the budget process, the board has discussed two budget priorities, which were increasing the number of school counselors and equity personnel.

“We have updated our allotment formula for counselors. We have adjusted that from one counselor per 599 students, we’ve decreased that ratio to one counselor per 250 students,” Fehrman said at the April 12 meeting. “We also updated our allotment formula to create a new position called game changers.”

The 11 game changers will focus on targeting intensive supports that CSD’s historically marginalized students need to be successful.

“What are the extra that these students aren’t getting that they haven’t been getting that they need to get,” Fehrman said. “We’ve been partnering with Dr. [Mari] Banks in the equity department. She’s going to be collaborating with principals to make sure that they are really doing the work to address of those students.”

The district has additionally increased staffing at the Decatur Student Center and hired another social worker.

The school system’s budget breaks down into four categories — the school nutrition revenue budget, the special revenue budget, the capital projects budget and the general fund budget.

In previous years, the general fund has supplemented the school nutrition program by about $900,000 a year. To reduce the amount of money that comes out of the general fund, the board increased meal prices by 50 cents, so about $226,000 will go into the school nutrition fund.

The capital fund budget is projected to have about $10.6 million in revenue. The district plans to spend $8 million, which is the amount of education special purpose local option sales tax funding the school system will receive in the first year.

City Schools of Decatur will receive about $40 million in ESPLOST funds over five years.

The preliminary FY23 general fund budget anticipates receiving about $85.6 million in revenue and spending the same amount, reflecting a balanced budget. Some highlights of the general fund include:

– Adding three counselors

– Maintaining the current millage rate of 21 mills

– A step increase for eligible employees

– A $2,000 increase to the teachers’ salary scale

– A 5.4% pay raise for school nutrition workers and bus drivers

– Increasing the equity budget

– A 5% reduction in all operational budgets

CSD will also increase tuition for the College Heights Early Childhood Learning Center by 5%.

The district’s fund balance, its reserve fund, is projected to have a beginning balance of $5.6 million and a projected ending balance of $6.1 million.

The fund balance is also looked at in terms of percentage of expenditures in the general fund that come from the reserves and is required to be at least at 4%. The base budget for fiscal year 2023 projected the fund balance to be at $2.1 million and 2.45% of expenditures by the end of the fiscal year. The FY23 budget projects the fund balance to end at 7.19%.

“At the end of 2022, we will look at our fund balance and if there are sufficient funds, Ms. Broome and I will look at the possibility of recommending a cost of living increase for other staff members if those funds are there,” Fehrman said.

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