With more money coming in from the state and growing student enrollment, Rockdale County Public Schools (RCPS) is looking at adding more teachers and reinstating resources that were cut during the recession years for next year's budget.
About $10.9 million more will be coming from the state. Of that, about $2.8 million is due to reduced austerity cuts, which means the state is paying more of what it is supposed to be paying to the school system. About $4 million is from growing projected enrollment and equalization formulas.
RCPS is projecting 251 more students will enroll next year, which means about 23 more regular education positions to be hired for the 2015-2016 school year.
During a school board budget committee meeting April 23, RCPS Finance Director Lee Davis expressed how glad he was to have good news to report after years of cuts.
The budget committee had started with five priorities - pay raises; restart RCPS contributions to the Alternative Retirement plan, which RCPS participates in instead of Social Security; reinstate information technology positions in schools or "intel support"; reduce class sizes; bring back flex points for teacher and employee allotments.
It looks like four out of those five priorities will be achieved in the budget proposed by the budget committee.
After frozen salaries for the last three years, RCPS is aiming to give a salary increase of 3 percent for all employees across the board.
Class size average will go down to 22.2, about 1.3 students down from the 23.5 average in 2013.
There will be 13.5 intel support positions added, which is critical for rolling out one-to-one technology to all students effectively and on schedule, Superintendent Rich Autry has said in the past. After a hiccup with the school system's learning management software, My Big Campus, the school system is back on track to rolling out laptops to all RCPS high school students for the 2015-2016 school year. The software will be supported for at least one more year before the software maker pulls the plug, giving time for RCPS to find an alternative. In the meantime, RCPS will continue with the scheduled rollout of laptops and tablets.
What will not be reinstated this year are RCPS matching contributions to the Alternative Retirement plan. The committee "had a long discussion as to what is more important - a pay raise or retirement. That depends on how close to retirement you are," said Davis.
"Of the five priorities, we feel pretty good that we were able to get four of those and substantially do those," said Davis.
The millage rate is not anticipated to need to increase, even with these changes, said Davis. He and city and county officials plan to meet this week to get a better look at local digest projections.
Also affecting the budget is the increased cost of health insurance for part-time classified employees.
Originally, under the state's proposal, part time classified employees, who work less than 30 hours a week were going to lose their health insurance coverage from the state. Now, instead, they can keep the health insurance coverage but the cost for RCPS will go up by $150 per part-time employee per month, which will cost a total of about $900,000 for the school system.
The school board budget committee will be meeting May 7, 5:30 p.m. to discuss the budget proposal in more detail in the conference room, before their regular work session at 7 p.m. in the main meeting room, both at 954 North Main Street.