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Decatur School Board discusses preliminary 2024 budget

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Decatur School Board discusses preliminary 2024 budget

Elizabeth Wilson School Support Center, City Schools of Decatur. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur School Board, at its March 14 meeting, discussed the preliminary fiscal year 2024 budget, which reflects $99.9 million in expenditures if all the FY 24 budget requests were approved.

The budget is in the initial stages of being developed. The district is still looking at which budget requests should be approved.

To view the full budget presentation, click here.

To view the list of budget requests, click here.

City Schools of Decatur is hosting a virtual town hall on the budget and newly-adopted strategic plan on Wednesday, March 22, at 9 a.m. To join the Zoom call, click here.

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.

CSD has projected receiving $93.4 million in revenue. In the FY 23 budget, the district anticipated receiving about $86.4 million.

Chief Financial Officer Lonita Broome said there were a few indicators the district is looking at when it comes to revenue and expenditures for FY 24.

“For revenue, the state is proposing and funding a $2,000 increase for the teacher salary schedule,” she said. “This will provide the district with additional revenue, however expenses will also increase.”

The state, however, does not provide funding for all employees within City Schools of Decatur. The state only provides funding for a certain number of positions based on the quality basic education formula. For CSD, the state funds about 415 positions.

Here are other education related items included in the state’s FY 24 budget:

– No austerity cuts

– $5 million for reimbursable grants to encourage paraprofessionals who have a bachelor’s degree to be certified as teachers.

– $26.9 million for new school counselors

– $1,000 salary increases for nutrition workers, bus drivers and custodians.

– State health employer rates will increase from $940 per month to $1,580 per month, which began in January 2023 for certified employees. Classified staff will join the cost increase in January 2024. The state House recommended a two-year phase in for the increase in the employer contribution for the State Health Benefits plan for non-certified school employees beginning Jan. 1, 2024, according to Broome’s presentation.

Due to the state budget, CSD will have to pay an annual increase in benefits of $7,620 per employee. Certified employees will be covered by the state, but the district will have to cover the cost for non-certified positions.

“Expenditure indicators include a six-month increase in benefits of $3,000 per employee for non-certified,” Broome said. “At the time the presentation was created, benefits were proposed to increase by $500 per month per non-certified employee beginning Jan. 1, 2024. We currently have about 236 non-certified employees that are taking benefits through the district.”

In terms of local revenue, Broome has projected a 6% increase in the tax digest, which would be about $3 million. Although, she is waiting on more information about the senior homestead tax exemption and information from DeKalb County to provide a more accurate projection of tax revenue.

Here is a look at the fiscal impact related to revenue:

– Revenue will increase by about $830,000 for the $2,000 increase for earned certified employees

– Teacher training will increase by $700,000

– Health benefits for certified employees will increase by about $3.7 million

– The district’s contribution to the local fair share will increase by about $1.2 million

The budget includes budget requests from each department and school principal.

“Assuming all of the fiscal year 24 budget requests are approved, the millage rate remains at 21 [mills] and the projected increase in revenue is accurate, this means we need to obligate $6.5 million of the $9.4 million in reserves, which will leave us with a fund balance of approximately $2.9 million or 2.89%,” Broome said.

The fund balance is CSD’s reserve fund. It’s looked at in terms of the percentage of expenditures in the general fund that come from the reserves and is required to be at least at 4%.

Superintendent Maggie Fehrman said she would recommend the school board keep the fund balance at 7.5% or above. She added that she’d make cuts before going below 7.5%.

To keep the fund balance reserves at 10%, revenue would need to increase by about $7 million.

“Since state revenue is tied directly to enrollment, local revenue is the only revenue source that can increase or decrease. If we increase the millage rate to 23.6, we would be able to fund all requests and maintain a fund balance of 10%,” Broome said.

School Board Member Hans Utz added that the district is not currently proposing to increase the millage rate to 23.6 mills. The school board members favored keeping the millage rate at 21 mills for FY 24.

The school board could also pull about $1 million from the fund balance to cover the $2,000 salary increase, fully fund health care and give employees a step increase. That would reduce the fund balance to about $8.9 million.

CSD could fund some of the budget requests with unspent funds from the FY 23 budget.

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