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Hall schools tentative budget lowers taxes, invests in employees
District also adding positions
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FY 2016 budget adoption calendar

First hearing if necessary: 5 p.m. June 8

Ad for second and third hearings will be posted: June 12

Second hearing if necessary: 11:30 a.m. June 22

Final hearing, adoption of final budget and setting millage rates: 5 p.m. June 22

The Hall County Schools Board of Education discussed the tentative fiscal year 2016 budget at its regular meeting last week. The district has a projected starting balance of $19.5 million and an ending balance of $20.87 million in the general fund.

Hall Superintendent Will Schofield said the tentative budget shows a great investment in teachers.

“This is the most positive budget year we’ve had since ’09,” Schofield said. “And looking at those positives, (one is) step raises are back in play for all salary scales, both certified and classified.”

The beginning teaching salary for employees with a bachelor’s degree will be approximately $37,323, according to Schofield. The salary will help the district remain competitive in hiring, he said.

Additionally, Schofield said the district will add 15 certified positions in order to lower class sizes and eight classified positions.

“Technology, food service, maintenance — those areas have really struggled over the last several years, just trying to stay even,” Schofield said.

The board also will give an additional hour per day to all school nurses. School bus drivers and substitute drivers will get 5 percent raises, and substitute teachers will receive a 10 percent increase in pay.

“This board through those tough times — I can’t recall how many times, but it was certainly many — said, ‘When we’re able, we’re going to put funding back into people’s paychecks,’” Schofield said. “This year, they’re putting $6 million into compensation costs for certified staff members.”

Additionally, $3 million of compensation costs will go toward classified employees, meaning a total $9 million more will go to employees.

“That is the lion’s share of the increase in expenditures next year,” Schofield said.

Specifically, the increase in expenditures is tentatively projected to be $9.15 million.

School board member Craig Herrington said he believes the board should make every effort to return funding to teachers.

“A number of the teachers and staff worked after-school programs that no longer exist,” Herrington said. “We’ve cut their hours in some cases. So even though this is an increase in their salary, it doesn’t cover what they’ve been cut the last few years. Anytime we can add something back, we’re helping get them back to where they would be if we hadn’t made those cuts.”

The school board also told Deputy Superintendent Lee Lovett, who has worked on the district’s budget for 41 years, to take “every available opportunity” to lower the millage rate.

The current millage rate is 18.9. Schofield said every tenth of a mill comes to about $400,000 for the system.

School board member Bill Thompson said he feels comfortable lowering the current millage by a tenth of a percentage point, to 18.8, because of the projected ending balance in the district’s general fund.

“I think once we’re showing this increase in compensation, which is long overdue and the first chance we’ve had to do it, hopefully by decreasing the millage rate a little the public will understand we’re not just rewarding teachers, but also reducing the tax,” board member Bill Thompson said. “So we’re not just raising, but lowering where we can.”