The Hall County Board of Education adopted its final budget on Monday, June 28, for fiscal year 2022. Here are some of the main takeaways.
Property taxes are going down
The general fund millage rate for fiscal year 2022 was rolled back to 16.485, but an additional 0.5 mill will be levied to pay for bonded indebtedness used to fund school construction projects under the 10-year facility plan.
Therefore, the total millage rate will be 16.985, down from 17.55 the previous year, a decrease of 0.565 or 3.2%.
“That should be very good news for the citizens of Hall County,” Superintendent Will Schofield said.
For a home valued at $250,000, that equates to abou $4.70 less per month or $56.50 less for the year.
Mental health and academic support getting more funding
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a huge spike in trauma and mental health referrals. Temporary federal funding will increase by $21 million under CARES Act II and III and will be distributed over the next two to three years, Schofield said. Much of that money will be used to fund mental health and academic support, such as $5 million to hire additional instructional staff.
“It’s pretty hard to learn addition and fractions if you’re being traumatized at home, or if you’re hungry or if you’re suffering from anxiety or depression,” Schofield said. He said the learning loss suffered by students during the pandemic will be written about for the next generation.
School employees are getting raises
A budget amendment was approved that will increase employee salaries, a move that board member Mark Pettitt described as historic and made possible by additional CARES funding. Teacher salaries will increase by an average of 4.71%; bus drivers by 6.51%; and cafeteria workers by 9.62%.
Additionally, district employees will receive a $500 stipend in November and part-time employees $250.
Construction, construction and more construction
A presentation on construction developments featured photos of rubble heaps and football fields alike.
Many of the schools in Hall County are some 40 years old. As part of the 10-year facility plan, the county will sell general obligation bonds totaling more than $250 million to improve school infrastructure.
Projects include repairing leaky roofs, upgrading stadium concession stands and renovating learning commons.
Spout Springs School of Enrichment and Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy will soon have car queue lines, which will get cars off the road. “It’s just a matter of time until we have some tragic accidents at both of those sites, so the opportunity to get queue lines and get cars off the road in those two locations is fantastic,” Schofield said.
At Johnson High School the football field is nearly finished, said Hall County Schools Facilities Assistant Jeff Dale, and the end-zone logo will soon be printed. Cherokee Bluff High School’s football field will be completed next, followed by East Hall High School.
Board will keep money in reserve
The total budget is more than $589 million with an estimated ending balance ranging from $44-57 million, depending on when the CARES funds hit the board’s account, Schofield said. Vice Chairman Nath Morris said the ending balance “has grown tremendously” in recent years. The board almost “bottomed out” in 2009 in the wake of the financial crisis, he said, followed by 125 teacher layoffs and districtwide pay cuts. The board has since aimed to reserve about 15% of the budget to mitigate against potential crises, he said.