An infusion of state funding and local tax revenue will help the Gainesville City School System increase salaries for some staff, add new teachers and replace aging buses next year.
Those are the bright spots in a proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year that Superintendent Jeremy Williams presented to the school board on Monday, May 21.
But there are caveats and additional expenses — such as increased contributions that must be made to the teacher retirement system — that could keep the city schools from a full rollback of the tax rate to account for increases in revenue from property tax reassessments.
Without a full rollback, the school board must advertise a proposed tax increase under state law.
The current tax rate is set at 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.
Williams presented three options for the board to consider: Keep the tax rate unchanged, lower it to 6.725 mills and use $500,000 in reserves to balance the budget, or a full rollback to 6.599 mills that requires $1 million in use of reserves.
On Monday, the board unanimously voted to tentatively adopt a $72 million budget that keeps the same tax rate in place and uses just $13,000 in reserves.
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. And an additional $3 million in local taxes will help support next year’s spending priorities.
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.
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.
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.
Three public hearings are scheduled next month before the board will have a final vote on adopting the budget on June 18.
Gainesville City School System fiscal year 2019 proposed budget
Revenues: $72,031,520 million
Expenditures: $72,044,809 million
Use of reserve fund: $13,000
Property tax rate: 6.85 mills
Where: Gainesville City School System office, 508 Oak St.; final hearing at Public Safety Complex, 535 Banks St., Gainesville
June 4: 5 p.m.
June 18: 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., followed by vote on budget at 6:30 p.m.