BOE budget

School board approves $34M tentative budget for next year

The board of education gave tentative approval to advertise a $34.89 million budget for 2019-2020 including almost $2.9 million in new spending largely for staff raises.

The budget projects no millage rate increase.

Assistant superintendent for finance LeVance Gay discussed the spending plan with board members during an hour long presentation at last Thursday’s work session.

“Despite the significant increase in spending, we still have a budget that balances and we are still projecting a fund balance at the end of the year identical to this year at about $7.1 million,” Gay said.

Gay said he anticipates leaving the millage rate the same as last year at 16.695 mills.

The assistant superintendent said the raises comprise about 79 percent of the new spending this year.

About $1.56 million of the increase in the 2019-2020 budget will come from the state to fund a $3,000 pay raise for teachers that was part of a campaign pledge by Governor Brian Kemp. The BOE decided to give all non-certified employees a raise as well, at a cost of almost $513,000. Funding for those raises will come from local taxpayers.  The non-certified employees will receive five percent raises, which is roughly equivalent to the raises teachers received.

“With the increases in teacher salaries, we decided to make the raises across the board. Everyone gets a raise. All means all,” said Dr. Kevin Smith, superintendent.

The raises extend not only to just teachers, but to support staff including Beck Custodial at the middle school and Blackshear Elementary and Kelly staff which includes substitute teachers, custodial and school nutrition and temporary staff.

The budget also includes adding several staff positions include a reading intervention specialist at Blackshear Elementary, an ag mechanics teacher at the high school and additional groundskeepers for the new high school.

Additional supplements are also included for tutoring and reading teachers at the middle and elementary school, additional hours for the athletic trainer at the high school, a secretary and instructor/trainer at the transportation department, salary changes for principals and assistant principals and athletic supplement increases for coaches at both the middle school and high school.

The additional raises for principals and assistant principals are to make them uniform with each other.  Principals are also being given additional pay in a step-system for each year they remain with Pierce County Schools. Superintendent Dr. Smith said the idea rewards employee loyalty and encourages principals to stay with the system longer.

First district board member Jack Saussy commended the increase in athletic supplements at the middle school.

“The supplements are very modest to begin with and I know (principal) Mr. Perry (Tison) sometimes has trouble finding people to fill those slots,” he said.

Third district board member Chip Griner and fourth district board member Duward Boatright asked if the additional money being spent on before-school tutoring would be a benefit to all students, specifically those who ride the bus.

Dr. Smith assured them it would.

“Administrators and teachers have said some students, including those who ride the bus, are on campus for half an hour before school starts,” the superintendent said. “We can use that time for tutoring to help the students.”

The budget also includes money for facility improvements at the Blackshear Elementary cafeteria, athletic fields and for playgrounds at the elementary schools. Funding is also included for instructional resources for English language arts, intervention and telehealth training and equipment.

The budget will be advertised in The Times in coming weeks. Public hearings will be held on the proposal at the board’s next work session June 4 and regular meeting June 10. Final approval of the budget and setting the millage rate will take place at the June 10 meeting.

In a related item, the board approved a change to the certified pay scale to reflect the changes in teacher pay.