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Schools narrow budget gap with shorter calendar, property tax increase
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IN BRIEF: Rockdale County Public Schools' non-traditional schools, such as the Open Campus for high school credit recovery, the Alpha School for students with discipline issues, and the Early Learning Center at Rockdale Career Academy, may not be on the chopping block, but students may see a shorter calendar and staff may see more furlough days instead. Property owners may also see a slightly higher tax rate but less in the actual amount billed for the school portion of the property tax.

RCPS is lookng to close a $19.2 million budget gap. Initially, the school system thought the gap would be around $14.4 million until it received preliminary estimates that showed a nearly 20 percent drop in the tax digest, or the total value of taxable property.

In a school board finance committee meeting Thursday, some of the cuts proposed included:

8 days cut from the calendar for all staff (instead of 5 days as previously discussed)
7 days cut for 200+day employees, such as teachers
Approximately 10 percent reduction in central office budget 
170 day student calendar with longer hours each day (instead of 160 day student calendar as previously discussed)

Other cuts previously discussed remain on the table, said Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis, such as cutting media clerk positions from all schools (certified media instructors would remain), 20 positions from the Central Office, and increasing class size ratios by two students per teacher in middle school and by one student more per teacher in high school.

The staff also looked at the budget based on a 1.5 mil increase in the property tax rate, which would close the gap by $2.7 million but would still not collect as much in taxes as the previous year.The school portion of the property tax is currently 24.5 mils, the same as the year before that.  

The maximum rate the Rockdale school board can charge is 30 mils. Rockdale is one of the few counties in the state that has a waiver for the 20 mil limit normally in place for Georgia school districts.

School board member Brad Smith pointed out with the millage rate increase of 1.5 mills, "89 percent (of the deficit) is going on all personnel and students' backs and 11 percent on taxpayers."


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