Newton County school officials discussed four possible budget scenarios for the next school year that could cease any furlough days, increase the amount of money paid to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) and raise for all employees’ salaries in the Newton County School System (NCSS).
The budget scenario discussed in detail by the NCSS during the Tuesday afternoon special-called meeting was one that would restore salaries halfway to their 2009 amounts, before the Great Recession hit, and increase 403B contributions by one percent to 2.5 percent in fiscal year 2016. These two factors would cost the NCSS about $1.8 and $1 million dollars.
The total budget increase over the current school year in this plan would be about $10.6 million, which would raise the NCSS expenditures to about $159.3 million. In this scenario, with revenues increasing by about $8 million to $155.8 million, the NCSS project to have a remaining general fund balance of about $19.3 million by the end of next school year, or $1.5 million less than the general fund balance at the end of the current school year.
“The focus of this budget is truly a salary study and implementation of that salary studies results so that our teachers and our school system staff are positively impacted for the work they put in day in and day out, especially those who have been with us through the recession and have endured not having any pay increases,” said NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey.
Other reasons for the possible budget increase are:
• Increase in health insurance cost by $1.2 million
• Hiring at least 14 new employees at a cost of about a million dollars
• Removing furlough days which would cost $1.6 million
• An increase in the cost utilities, fuel, instructional software and technology maintenance by $652,140
The other three scenarios of budgets included one without any pay increases, another that fully restores salaries to the 2009 levels next school year and the last would restore salaries to 2009 totals by fiscal year 2017.
While the Newton County School Board (BOE) and the NCSS were in agreement that more was needed in terms of help for administrators and higher salaries, Fuhrey urged patience as the school districts recovers from the effects of the recession.
“We are balancing out that work with the people that we have in an effort to restore salaries to our employees, and then, as we get that under control, then we would come back with some different recommendations,” she said. “We’re doing the minimum that we can to continue our efficiency with the hope that some point in the future we can add more teachers, we can add more administrator staff to support teachers.”
During the meeting, 14 capital projects costing $7.2 million of special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) money was also discussed, including purchasing new school buses, cameras for the school buses, computers and new gym floors at select elementary schools.
The BOE would approve a tentative budget for the 2016 school year next month, with a final budget needing to be approved before the end of the fiscal year, June 30.