Proposed schools budget includes staff raises

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 20, 2016

By Matthew Strother

LaGRANGE — The proposed 2016-2017 budget for the Troup County School System is slated to include a 3 percent raise for all employees, Superintendent Cole Pugh said Thursday.

Citing the difficulties of budget cuts and leave-without-pay days in previous years, as well as increasing responsibility from changing state and federal standards, Pugh said the state has recommended local systems raise salaries after the state decided to increase its local allocations. He added the raises will be in addition to any employees eligible for “step increases” in their salary based on education and time employed.

“In spite of all the changes the Board of Education and employees have faced in recent years, CCRPI scores, which were reported to (the board) on Monday, show that we are, overall, outperforming the state,” Pugh said. “Our employees and students have made that happen, and I am proud of our progress and look forward to the future.”

The superintendent tied the raises back to the school system’s stated goals of increasing relevance and rigor in the classroom. He touted the contracted professional development training for teachers and school administrators beginning in August as helping to increase future performance and said the salary increases will help retain and attract quality employees to help with those goals.

Pugh also referred to the system and board’s decisions to close four schools, and the reduction of 300 staff positions over the last several years as “difficult financial decisions,” but “our financial situation has improved. If we had not made those tough decisions, we might still be in reduction mode.”

The board on Thursday tentatively adopted the budget, which gives the go-ahead for staff to advertise it as it stands, but will not formally adopt a budget until its next meeting, set for June 16.

In the tentative budget, the system is also looking at adding new instructors and teaching resources for the next fiscal year as it considers a nearly $3 million budget increase over last year. Much of the expected additional revenue will come from $2.8 million in the additional state-allocated funds, which includes $1.8 from reduced austerity cuts and a $1 million increase in equalization funding, which is based on local property values.

The majority of the expected additional funds, about $1.2 million, will go into instruction. Plans are to add teachers, especially in gifted classes, along with paraprofessionals in alternative classrooms and for reading instruction, said Byron Jones, school system CFO, during a presentation to the Board of Education on Monday. Additions to custodial positions and “one or two” school administrative positions and other resources are also proposed, with the maintenance and operations budget set to increase by $213,361 and school administration by $409,973 over last year.

The system also will continue focus on bolstering technology and staff training, with proposed increases of $222,006 and $508,825 in those categories respectively.

In total, the tentative budget proposes $101,111,817 in revenue with $102,111,817 in expenses, with the $1 million deficit to come from the system’s reserve, which is expected to be about $23 million by the end of the current fiscal year.

The majority of the school system’s funding comes from the state with about $58.6 million expected in the upcoming fiscal year and local taxes accounting for about $42 million, the same as last year.

Other items the board approved Thursday are:

• Renewal of an annual license agreement and support costs for Software Systems Unlimited Inc. financial accounting system at a cost of $50,600. To be paid from the school system’s general funds.

• Paying $69,605 to Edgenuity for a subscription renewal for e2020, an online instructional tool used for credit recovery at Troup, LaGrange and Callaway high schools and HOPE Academy. It is an intervention program to assist in getting students “back on track” for promotion and graduation, states school system documents. To be paid from school system budgeted technology and software funds.

• Approving $150,000 to pay for the yearly contract to Troup County Board of Commissioners for the services of resource officers at Callaway High School, Callaway Middle School and Long Cane Middle School for the next school year. To be paid from school system general funds.

• Approving Mauldin & Jenkins CPA, LLC to perform the fiscal year 2016 financial audit and Education SPLOST 4 performance review at a cost of $44,000. To be paid from general funds.

• Paying $350,000 to Hutchinson Traylor Insurance as the liability and automobile insurance carrier for fiscal year 2017. To be paid from general funds.

• Renewal contract with Aramark Management Services Limited Partnership in the amount of $374,803.23 plus the lesser of the applicable Employment Cost Index or 3 percent for contracted custodial management services. To be paid from system maintenance and operations general funds.

• Approving purchase orders with G & K Services for uniform services for a total $29,500 for the transportation, custodial and maintenance departments. To be paid from budgeted funds.

• Approve a bid of $898,572.26 for Hawkins Oil Company to continue to be the system’s fuel provider for diesel and gasoline from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. To be paid from budgeted transportation funds.

• Paying $55,491.68 to North Georgia Tire for new tires for autos, trucks and buses from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017. Also, in a separate contract, $16,216.44 to the company for bus, truck and auto re-tread tires for the same period. Both would be paid from budgeted transportation funds.

Matthew Strother is editor of the LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-883-7311, ext. 2153.