Hall County Schools’ tentative budget for 2017-18 includes a lower tax rate and pay raises for all of the approximately 3,400 employees, while shaving a little more than $2 million off the anticipated hit to the district’s fund balance from a proposal a week ago.
At its meeting Monday night, the school board approved the tentative budget that will now go before the public with three hearings next month before the board is scheduled to give final approval June 26. The 2018 budget year begins July 1.
Highlights of the budget include:
• A 2.5 percent salary increase for all employees, representing more than $4 million,
• An increase of about $12.5 million in the general fund budget, which is now nearly $265.15 million out of an almost $370.5 million total budget, that includes all funds such as building funds and federal programs, which come through and are spent by the school district,
• Using about $3.9 million from the district’s fund balance to cover the increased expenditures, a decrease from estimated $6 million required from the fund balance during a work session last week,
• A slight decrease in the millage rate, which determines what residents pay in property taxes, from 18.8 to 18.5 mills,
• A 5.61 percent increase in the local digest, which determines how much school districts can expect to receive in local property tax funding.
Superintendent Will Schofield told board members last month that more than $11 million of the general fund budget increase was directly related to pay raises and benefits for district employees. The state legislature mandated 2 percent raises for teachers, but the district decided to give the raise to all employees. Board members had asked Schofield to look for ways increase pay for employees beyond 2 percent, while also providing some relief for taxpayers in the form of a millage decrease.
Schofield said he hopes to manage expenses during the year to cut the amount taken out of the fund balance to cover expenses from the current $3.9 million to around $2 million.
“We’re in a good position, a strong position,” Schofield said. “I’m thankful that we live in Hall County, and I’m thankful that we’re as healthy as we are.”