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Gainesville school system to hire more teachers, give raises
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Gainesville City Schools will spend about $68 million in its general fund budget for the next school year — an increase of nearly $4 million over the current budget.

The fiscal year 2017 budget, which starts July 1, will include about $1 million in new money for additional teaching positions. Those positions are to accommodate growth in the schools’ enrollment, additional teachers for English to speaker of other languages and to “level out” pupil-teacher ratios in elementary schools.

The budget also includes a 3 percent “grant” in more pay for all employees, about $1.2 million in new money and another $250,000 for “step” increase of experience or educational levels.

The budget will not require a millage rate increase, but the final millage rate will not be known until August when the state certifies tax digests. The current millage rate is 6.89 mills.

The total budget for the city is about $80.5 million. That includes the school nutrition, transportation and debt service expenses.

The system will pay about $4.4 million in debt service for 2016-17. That is paid out of education special purpose local option sales tax revenue, which is paid by a one cent sales tax. The city schools receive about $6 million a year from E-SPLOST.

Chris Griner, chief financial officer for the schools, said the school district had a fund balance of about $16.6 million at the end of May. He had projected the schools would have about $14 million in the fund balance to start the new year. He said it might be more than that.

Gainesville anticipates spending about $1.7 million from the fund balance in the fiscal year 2017 budget.

Griner told the board about 83 percent of the budget is for salaries and benefits.

One of the other increases for the upcoming year will be insurance costs for classified — nonteaching — employees. Griner noted that amount is set by the state because the insurance is through it.

He also reported the budget projects the city will pay the county about $775,000 next year in property taxes for annexed tracts. The city and county have a “tax sharing” agreement in which the city pays the county for annexed property into the city.

Superintendent Wanda Creel termed the tax agreement “quite unique” and said she anticipates renewing it.

In other business

• The board agreed for Creel to develop a committee to consider attendance zones for the new school in Mundy Mill. She said she would request at least two representatives from each school in the system. Board member Sammy Smith also requested that Gainesville Police Chief Carol Martin be invited to assign a member to the committee and that board member Willie Mitchell be an ex-officio member. The new school is to open in August 2017.

• The board agreed that Creel would develop “language to authorize some form of compensation.” The board now makes $450 a month, Vice Chair Brett Mercer said. Smith said he learned “from our marathon policies discussion” that the board “seems not to be specific” in a policy that provides for board pay. Creel said she would seek information from the Pioneer RESA, which includes Gainesville, about board pay and would seek out other school systems of similar size around the state.

• The board voted to buy software for establishing and tracking school bus routes because of the growth of the system. Griner said the system has added about 1,900 students in the past five years. Smith said about 60 percent of the district’s students ride buses. The new software will cost $33,292 plus about $7,600 for yearly operations.

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