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Gainesville needs to tap an additional $153K of reserves in school budget
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Gainesville City School System officials are looking to tap an additional $153,000 in reserves to balance a $72 million operating budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. - photo by Joshua Silavent

Gainesville City School System officials are looking to tap an additional $153,000 in reserves to balance a $72 million operating budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.  That would bring the total use of reserves to almost $166,600 for the 2019 fiscal year.

A drop in the latest revenue projections prompted the change at a public hearing on the budget held Monday, June 4.

“We’ll have to dip into our reserves slightly, but we feel very comfortable going forward,” Board of Education Chairman John Filson said.

Superintendent Jeremy Williams said that even with the additional use of reserves, the school system will retain three months of operating expenses in its fund balance.

Gainesville City School System fiscal year 2019 proposed budget

Revenues: $71,878,227

Expenditures: $72,044,809

Use of reserve fund: $166,581

Tax rate: 6.85 mills

Moreover, increased funding from the state, which is fully funding local school districts based on its own spending formula for the first time in 15 years, is helping offset new costs.

The school system will receive about $49 million in funding from the state, an increase of $2 million year-over-year, as austerity cuts end.

This money will help support salary increases for some staff, add new teachers and replace aging school buses.

For example, $385,000 is proposed for salary scale increases; $100,000 is allocated to implement a minority recruitment plan for up to 10 future employees; and $50,000 is budgeted for pay incentives to attract more bus drivers.

Board member Willie Mitchell said focusing on recruiting and retaining minority teachers, as well as efforts to improve graduation rates and test scores among minority students, is a priority he will continue to focus on.

“The beautiful part is that the revenue is there to cover it without putting us in any kind of bind,” he added. “But at the same time … I also look at any student failures and I want to make sure we direct money that way to correct those problems.”

Meanwhile, about $700,000 is earmarked to add positions to Work-Based Learning programs; positions to support nurse caseloads at Gainesville middle and high schools; new special education professionals; and six new positions at Gainesville Middle (the middle school is anticipating between 125 and 150 new students next year).

Finally, $300,000 would be spent to replace three school buses.

A major new expense includes a 4 percent increase in the portion the school system has to pay into the teacher retirement system, which adds up to $1.7 million more next year.

Williams said this additional expense would not increase as dramatically the following year.

The school board is proposing to keep the property tax rate at its current 6.85 mills. School taxes are assessed at 100 percent of a property’s value, which means the current rate would equal 17.125 mills when compared with Hall County Schools, which assesses at just 40 percent.

Keeping the tax rate unchanged means the school system is technically proposing a tax increase.

Under state law, a full rollback of the tax rate to 6.598 mills (to account for increases in revenue from property tax reassessments) must be made to avoid a tax increase.

Two additional public hearings will be held June 18 before a final vote on the budget by the school board that same day.

Budget hearings

When: 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. June 18, followed by school board vote on budget at 6:30 p.m.

Where: First meeting at school system office, 508 Oak St., Gainesville; second meeting at municipal courtroom of Gainesville Public Safety Complex, 701 Queen City Parkway, Gainesville

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