TCSS discusses proposed budget

Published 7:45 am Thursday, April 27, 2023

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Last week, the Troup County School Board discussed its proposed budget for the 2023-2024 fiscal year.

TCSS is budgeted to bring in $143,862,369 in revenue, an increase of $15,099,217 from the 2022-2023 budget. According to board documents, TCSS estimates an increase of $9,979,317 in state funding and an increase of $4,280,555 in local revenue.

In the 2022-2023 budget, TCSS’s expense budget was $141,385,689. The proposed 2023-2024 budget proposed an expense increase of $2,476,680. A majority of that is increased health insurance rates, a $2,000 pay raise for teachers, position additions and operational increases.

Dr. Scott Burckbuchler, chief financial officer, said the increase in teacher salary was well deserved.

“It’s not easy teaching in this day and age — I come from a family of educators and certainly anything we could do to increase the compensation for teachers is definitely valued,” Burckbuchler said. “That increase came through as a result of a state salary schedule (signed by Governor Brian Kemp), which increased that schedule by $2,000.”

A majority of the expenditures — $85,538,622 (59.5%) are projected to go directly to instruction — an increase of $8.6 million compared to the previous budget.

Maintenance and operations remain the second largest expense category at a budgeted cost of $15,670,070. However, compared to last year, that category has seen a reduction in cost of $244,141. School administration is the third highest expense at $10,922,616, a $1,090,257 increase from last year. Transportation totals out to $9,576,706 — 22.4 percent less than the $12,347,852 spent the year prior.

In the last few months, the Troup County School Board voted to purchase weapons detections system and to hire security staff to man them. Burckbuchler said funding for the weapons detection systems is a one-time expense, and security staff additions have been incorporated within the new proposed budget.

He said funding for staffing the machines is included under the operations category of the budget.

Expenses for transportation have gone down, in part, due to a budget amendment and state funding, Burckbuchler said.

“We did a budget amendment and that became part of the base budget. Because the purchase [of buses] is a one-time expense and not recurring, we reduced the budget by that amount,” Burckbuchler said.

During the meeting, Superintendent Brian Shumate discussed TCSS’s strategic plan for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year. The plan included a focus on student success and wellbeing, ensuring equitable opportunities for all, recruiting, inducting, and retaining staff, cultivating the school system to function as a flexible and adaptable organization and cultivating relationships and strategic partnerships between TCSS, parents and organizations that provide services to children.

In budget documents, Shumate said the $29.2 million provided by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), continues to provide additional support to schools in the system in both instructional and operational areas. However, he said the ARPA funds will be exhausted in the upcoming fiscal year and the approximate $5 million of positions supported by the grant will either have to be eliminated or absorbed by the General Fund.

“There are positions that are currently funded under the CARES fund ARPA, and we’ll have to make the determination whether or not we have sufficient funds on the operating side or the general fund side to add those positions,” Burckbuchler said. “If not, we’re going to have to eliminate those positions.”

Burckbuchler said they will be looking at remaining ARPA funds within the next budget development cycle, around January 2024.

“The CARES funds and the money given in response to COVID is running out. We’re trying to alert the community and our internal customers as to what’s coming down the pike,” Burckbuchler said.

He said the TCSS budget is an investment but one that will be helpful for students in the future.

“We appreciate the community support of the budget and understand that it’s a very large investment. I call it an investment because it does make a difference in terms of kids’ lives and we appreciate the community that values education continuing to support the school system,” Burckbuchler said.