Education is an expensive proposition. It’s made even more so when a school district with an enrollment of about 28,000 students adds a new high school and middle school.
But that’s exactly where Hall County Schools finds itself with a proposed $250 million general fund budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
“It should come as no surprise ...” Superintendent Will Schofield said during a recently recorded budget presentation, describing the “rapid growth that appears to be coming our way.”
Hall County is planning to spend an additional $13.7 million next year, with large sums allocated to open the new Cherokee Bluff high and middle schools in South Hall.
That would mark a 5.74 percent increase in expenditures year-over-year.
“Most of that will be additional positions,” Schofield said.
About $4.5 million in all is budgeted for step raises and new hires.
With these new hires comes additional benefits spending, which could increase about as much as $8 million, Schofield said, as contributions to the teacher retirement system increase.
“So that is a huge figure,” Schofield added.
New spending also includes a $1.5 million increase in contracted services, such as custodial work and fuel expenses.
“The price of fuel has gone up considerably,” Schofield said, and will cost an additional $600,000 to cover as the district opens new bus routes to serve the new schools.
The silver lining is that revenues are expected to increase about $14.1 million, a 6 percent increase year-over-year.
A significant portion of that revenue increase comes from the state, which officials expect will total about $9.5 million.
“We’re certainly thankful our policymakers and Gov. (Nathan) Deal have eliminated the austerity cuts for the first time in recent memory,” Schofield said.
The school district will also collect a $4.1 million increase in property tax revenue.
The tax rate is currently set at 18.50 mills.
But Schofield said he hopes the district can “shave” that rate by tapping $4 million from a $31.7 million fund balance to help cover salary increases for additional employees.
“It won’t be much of a reduction ... but we would certainly like to lower the millage rate to some level,” Schofield added.
Hall County Schools preliminary budget overview for Fiscal Year 2018-19
New revenues: $14.1 million increase, up 6 percent
$9.5 million from state
$4.1 million in property taxes
New expenditures: $13.7 million increase, up 5.74 percent
$4.5 million for staff raises and new hires
Total: $250 million general fund budget
Note: Adoption of FY 2018-19 budget is scheduled for June 25