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Budget amendment brings Decatur Schools’ expenses to $100 million for FY 2024

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Budget amendment brings Decatur Schools’ expenses to $100 million for FY 2024

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

This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur School Board, at its Feb. 20 regular meeting, amended the fiscal year 2024 budget by about $823,634 in revenue and $1 million in expenditures, which brings the district’s total expenses to just over $100 million.

The budget amendment also brings the total revenue for fiscal year 2023-2024 to about $100 million. The expenditures are about $27,500 less than the revenue total. The amendment accounts for expenses related to teacher bonuses, replacing supplies at Winnona Park Elementary, revenue from an insurance claim payment and the state, and a budget request for career, technical and agricultural education grants.

In December 2023, Gov. Brian Kemp amended the state budget to provide one-time $1,000 bonuses to teachers and staff. City Schools of Decatur receives funding from the state through the quality basic education formula for about half of its staff. All full-time CSD employees received a $1,000 bonus, and part-time employees received a $500 bonus, Chief Financial Officer Dr. Lonita Broome said.

The district was given $546,423 from the state for the bonuses and had to allocate $412,612 from the district’s budget to make sure all employees got a bonus.

The ending fund balance for the fiscal year would end up being about $14.9 million, which is about $220,000 less than initially projected. The fund balance is the reserves for the general fund.

In other business:

– The school board elected James Herndon to serve as chair and Dr. Carmen Sulton to serve as vice chair.

– The school board also began discussing the preliminary fiscal year 2025 budget, which currently anticipates receiving $98 million in revenue and spending upwards of $102 million to $105 million in the general fund.

The preliminary budget is based on the school district receiving the same amount of revenue as the current fiscal year. It does not currently project an increase in revenue.

“As we process through budget season and the governor solidifies the state budget and the tax assessor provides a projection on the tax digest growth, revenue will be updated to reflect the changes,” Broome said.

Instruction is the largest expenditure in the budget and makes up 63% of the general fund budget.

“The instruction function includes activities dealing directly with the interaction between teachers and students, including the salary and benefits of teachers and instructional material purchased for learning,” Broome said.

Maintenance and operations make up the second-largest category of expenditures. It makes up about 9% of the general fund budget. School administration makes up about 8% of the general fund expenses.

The board is seeking to increase teacher and staff pay in the next fiscal year. Chief of Human Resources Adena Walker presented a salary and benefits analysis and several options during a previous work session.

Board members have favored an option that would increase the entry-level salary to $55,200 while working toward increasing the entry-level pay to $57,000. There would also be a 5-8% salary increase for existing teachers and a 5% salary increase for non-teaching positions.

If City Schools of Decatur moves forward with this option, the total expenditures for FY 2025 would be about $102 million. About $3.9 million from the fund balance may be needed to help cover expenses.

Another option that has been presented, known as option No. 7, aims to increase the entry-level salary for teachers to $57,000. There would be a 5-15% salary increase for teachers and a 5% salary increase for non-teaching positions as well.

This option would bring the FY 2025 expenditures to about $105 million. About $6.3 million from the fund balance may be added to the general fund if this option was implemented.

The budget, however, does not take into account an increase in the tax digest, which is anticipated, and it assumes the millage would remain at 20.3. The school board has not made any decisions about the millage rate and did not propose any changes to the rate on Tuesday night.

– Tax Commissioner Irvin Johnson joined the school board for their meeting as well to talk about the tax digest.

“The tax digest is the primary vehicle by which all of the cities and school systems determine what money you will have to operate,” Johnson said.

In DeKalb County, the tax commissioner collects taxes. Although the city of Decatur collects its own taxes. DeKalb also has a tax assessor, who is responsible for assessing property and establishing property values. The two offices are separate from each other.

Johnson noted that property values have been on the rise over the last several years.

“We expect that the tax digest will continue to go up,” he said.

The school board is planning to meet with the tax assessor and Decatur’s city manager in March to continue discussing the tax digest.

– Mauldin and Jenkins issued an unmodified, clean audit report for City Schools of Decatur’s FY 2023 budget.

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