School board to adopt budget Thursday

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 14, 2016

LaGRANGE — The Troup County Board of Education is set to vote on its fiscal year 2017 budget on Thursday.

The proposed budget is $101,698,516 in revenue with $103,448,517 in expenses. The difference — about $1.75 million — will come from the school system’s reserve funds. The reserve is expected to be $23 million by the end of this month, which system CFO Byron Jones said exceeds the state’s recommended amount to keep on hand in case of emergency.

The totals differ from the tentative budget adopted last month, which called for $1 million to be used from reserve funding. Almost all line items listed in the budget increased slightly from the tentative version of the budget, leading to the additional $750,000 in proposed expenses.

The newer budget also shows about $500,000 more in expected revenue than the tentative version, which comes from an increase in the amount of expected taxes collected based on the tax digest. The system is not proposing an increase to its current 18.85 mills property tax levy, however an increase in the property tax digest — the overall value of taxable property in the county — may mean the system will need to host hearings on the rate if it chooses not to rollback the rate to collect the same amount in tax revenue as last year.

The budget also includes a 3 percent raise for all employees, which system officials said will make the system more competitive in attracting and retaining employees. A study of systems in the area concluded that it fell below the competitive range for teacher pay, but the salary increase will bring it in line, said Sequita Freeman, school system chief human resources officer.

In the budget, the system is also looking at adding new instructors and teaching resources for the next fiscal 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.

Plans are to add teachers, especially in gifted classes, along with paraprofessionals in alternative classrooms and for reading instruction, Jones said during a presentation to the Board of Education in May. Additions to custodial positions and “one or two” school administrative positions and other resources are also proposed.

The system also will continue to bolster funding for technology and staff training.

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 $42.7 million, slightly higher than last year.

Other items the board is set to vote on Thursday are:

• A proposal to extend the deadline on the Town Square TAD — tax allocation district — for the planned downtown LaGrange hotel from June 30 to Oct. 31. The TAD allows the hotel project to keep property tax collections on the property frozen at its current rate, and when developed, the difference in tax value will be used to pay back bonds secured for the project. Because the school board is a tax-collecting entity, it will need to sign off on the proposal.

• A $60,677.96 annual subscription renewal from Renaissance Learning Inc. for Renaissance Place, an online program allowing access to Accelerated Reader tests for each elementary and middle school, to be paid from budgeted software funds.

• Paying $94,307.50 to SchoolCity Inc. for an annual license of formative data assessment tools software, to be paid from general funds.

• Adopting the food service budget for fiscal year 2017, with $5,962,706 in expenses and $6,552,706 in revenue.

• Renewal of its Infinite Campus online student information system software annual agreement for $86,499.

• Contract with BB&T Insurance Services for $84,042 to provide athletic medical insurance, supplemental to personal insurance, for the next school year and approve the following rates for athletic medical insurance: high school athletics, $49; high school band, $33; middle school athletics, $43; and middle school band, $28.

• Renewal of an annual agreement with Troup County Archives for $30,000 to be paid from general funds. The archives offer service that includes a dedicated space of about 3,000 linear feet of shelving allotted to records of former Troup County School System students and personnel.

• Contract with Permaflex for a guaranteed maximum of $255,290.64 to replace asphalt in the parking lots and driveways at Troup High School and $198,038.88 to repave parking lots and driveways at Gardner Newman Middle School. Both would be paid with special-purpose, local-option sales tax — SPLOST — funds.

• Payments to Servicemaster Recovery Management for the work performed to mitigate and make repairs to Troup High School, $35,721.49 and $50,353.88; Hollis Hand Elementary, $48,495; Unity Elementary, $32,559.20; and LaGrange High School, $73,815.44; due to damage from the storms in December 2015. Servicemaster performed immediate and longterm repairs to the damaged facilities. The board entered into an agreement with Servicemaster Recovery in April 2012 for recovery services. Funding source: maintenance general fund.

By Matthew Strother

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