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Troup County School System unveils new budget Thursday

Troup County School System Chief Financial Officer Scott Burckbuchler unveiled the school system’s 2020-2021 fiscal budget for the first time Thursday night.

The school system’s budget stands at $115,154,805, which is a decrease of about $2 million or 1.7 percent from the prior year.

Burckbuchler said revenues coming in from the state are expected to decrease by about $1.2 million, but local revenues are estimated to increase by more than $500,000.

He said the school system is including funding for a step increase for certain employees, and the budget does reflect the reduction in force policy. The reduction in force policy calls for the elimination of 49.48 positions, equaling about $2.2 million.

TCSS Superintendent Dr. Shumate said the goal is to have many of those positions eliminated through attrition and to reassign as many employees as possible to vacant positions within the school system.

Burckbuchler said about 88 percent of the school system’s budget is spent on wages and benefits.

Additionally, he said none of the information presented to the board Thursday night took into account what impact the COVID-19 pandemic might have on revenue.

The board of education was not asked to approve the budget Thursday night. Per state statute, the board must hold two public hearings before adopting the next year’s budget.

Shumate said due to the governor’s shelter-in-place order, and trying to adhere to social distancing laws, the school system will get creative, while still allowing constituents to have their say on the budget.

The two board hearings will be at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 4, and again at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 11.

Shumate said his staff is working on a scenario for residents who want to comment on the budget to come to the Administrative Services Center building at 100 North Davis Road and enter into a private booth to address the board via computer. Shumate said each person could speak to the board for three minutes about the budget and exit out of another door.

“We will have a line on the other side of the room and keep people apart,” he said.

As for the budget itself, Shumate said it’s a good start into his first year as superintendent. He said he’s still as excited as he was when he interviewed in February 2019.

“We’re sitting on something good,” he said. “We can make our test scores go up, improve our reputation around the state and do what’s best for these kids and our families, and help make Troup County a place to live, learn and to prosper.”

Shumate said he understands the school system plays a vital role in any community.

In the budget, Shumate laid out eight main properties going into the following year. Chief among them is instruction and curricular coherence.

The district took the first step in fulfilling that priority Thursday night by approving a new math curriculum called Ready Math for $474,774.30. The board also approved $118,500 of professional development for all teachers to implement the curriculum.

“I want to ensure that a student in any of our elementary schools, regardless of the grade, is getting a similar experience, no matter school they are in,” he said Monday night during the board’s work session.  “I can’t say that right at the moment because we have a lot of different things going on.”

Based on materials provided by the school district, Ready Classroom Mathematics is an evidence-based, rigorous curriculum that is aligned to the Georgia Standards of Excellence.

Another portion of the curriculum includes iReady, which is an assessment for students.

Assistant Superintendent Penny Johnson said the assessment would be given multiple times during the year, and it determines a student’s comprehension level and what remediation materials are needed to master the content.

Currently, the school system is using Eureka Math in elementary schools and a combination of Open Resources and Envision Math in middle schools.

“Eureka is a very different method of instruction, and although it’s high quality, we’ve realized that we have some transition issues as students move from fifth grade and the sixth grade,” Johnson said. “This K-8 program creates vertical alignment so that our students will receive a coherent method of instruction in math that’s aligned to the Georgia State Standards.”

A copy of the TCSS budget can be found on the school board’s website.