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Decatur School Board approves fiscal year 2024 budget, tentative millage rate

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Decatur School Board approves fiscal year 2024 budget, tentative millage rate

The Decatur School Board voted to approve the fiscal year 2024 budget and tentatively set the millage rate during its regular meeting on Tuesday, May 9, at the Wilson Center. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — The City Schools of Decatur School Board, at its May 9 regular meeting, adopted the fiscal year 2024 budget. The board also tentatively approved the millage rate at 21 mills.

The millage rate remains unchanged compared to fiscal year 2023. According to the agenda packet, the district will receive the tax digest in mid-May and the final millage rate could change. CSD has projected a 7% increase in the tax digest.

The school board additionally approved budget enhancements from incoming Superintendent Dr. Gyimah Whitaker. She has proposed adding three new staff positions – chief of communications, coordinator of audit/investigations, and legislative liaison coordinator. To see the descriptions of these positions, click here

“The positions are a combination of a redistribution of current staff responsibilities and additional responsibilities in order to improve organizational effectiveness and achieve organizational excellence,” School Board Chair James Herndon said. 

The total fiscal impact on the budget is an additional $426,478 to the FY 2024 budget, which decreases the fund balance percentage of expenditures from 7.65% to 7.19%. The fund balance remains within the 4-15 % range as specified per board policy, Herndon added. 

School Board Member Tasha White said that Whitaker had made a good argument with data to back up why those positions are needed. 

“I share the concern that some may have that she hasn’t quite gotten in the seat yet. Does she know how this district really runs,” White said. “But from our meeting with her, it’s very clear that the research has been done and there’s still so much more that needs to be done.” 

She added different superintendents have different styles when it comes to making changes. 

“In this particular instance, her leadership style is to look at things very hard, dig deep and start how she wants to start off her year and start off as superintendent with some of these things in place so that she can continue the work that the prior administration has already started with the strategic plan,” White said. 

The financial impact is one that the district can bear, the school board members said. 

Interim Superintendent Dr. Maggie Fehrman asked for the data that was shared with the school board about the new positions. 

“[This is] a budget that I have to present to the board, I think I need to be ready to understand that unless the board wants to take that responsibility,” Fehrman said. 

“I think we are comfortable taking that responsibility,” School Board Member Hans Utz said.  

White added that the transition from one superintendent to another is hard. It is also not the goal of the school board or Whitaker to make sweeping changes to the school district, she said. 

“We were very clear that this school and the district have done an amazing job. We were not looking to bring in a superintendent who would come in and completely overhaul and change and flip everything on its backside,” White said. “As the new superintendent starts to come in and take the baton from the current superintendent to fly with the plan that has already been created, these are some of the things that she would like to implement to strengthen what the current staff has already worked on so diligently.”

As the school board transitioned to discussing and voting on the FY 24 budget, Fehrman said, “that’s on the board now,” since the budget enhancements changed the final budget from the tentative budget.

City Schools of Decatur’s budget is divided into four categories — the school nutrition revenue budget, the special revenue budget, the capital projects budget, and the general fund budget.

The school nutrition revenue budget is projected to be about $3.3 million and the expenditures are the same amount.

“Due to decreased sales, revenues for school nutrition have declined, and we are anticipating that general funds will need to supplement school nutrition by an additional $300,000,” Chief Financial Officer Lonita Broome said during the budget public hearing. “This will bring the general fund’s total supplement for school nutrition to approximately $1.2 million.” 

The school board held a public hearing on the budget before the regular meeting on Tuesday. 

Sales is the largest revenue source for the school nutrition budget. The biggest expenditures for school nutrition are the purchase of food, salaries, and benefits. 

The special revenue fund consists of state and federal funding the school district has received. The estimated revenue for this fund is about $2.7 million.

The school system will also receive about $40 million of special purpose local option sales tax funding over a five-year period, which will be about $8 million per year. This funding makes up the capital fund budget. For FY 2024, the beginning fund balance of the capital funds budget will be $1.9 million, so the total revenue for capital funds is $9.9 million.

The general fund is CSD’s largest operating fund. This budget has increased by about $9 million from FY 2023 to FY 2024. 

The general fund revenue is projected to be about $95.5 million. Most of the budget increase relates to personnel benefits and salary increases.

“State revenue has increased by approximately $5 million, with the primary increases related to a $2,000 salary increase for earned certified positions (a little over 400 employees) and increased health costs for certified employees ($7,620 per employee per year),” the agenda packet states. “Although enrollment has decreased, the state has held the district harmless for FY2024 (did not decrease revenue).”

Broome also shared projections for FY 2025 and FY 2026. CSD’s revenue and expenditures are expected to increase to about $100 million in FY 2025 and 2026.

The budget projects using about $2.3 million of fund balance, which is the district’s reserves, to balance the budget. The general fund expenditures are budgeted at about $97.8 million.

“Departments and schools are requested to submit detailed expenditure requests each fiscal year,” Broome said. “There were approximately $5.7 million worth of expenses requested this year. In addition, there were $6.3 million in expenditure increases from the salary and benefit increases…”

Fehrman recommended about $3.3 million of the requests from the departments and schools be approved. The largest expenditure increases come from the $2,000 salary increase for all employees and step increase for eligible employees, increasing substitute pay and activity stipends, and the increase in health benefits. 

To read more about the other budget requests, click here

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