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$1.6M overhaul of Forsyth County Schools bus radio network approved
School bus

At a packed house meeting of the Forsyth County Board of Education held Tuesday, May 21, board members closed out the 2018-19 school year with presentations from system staff, project approvals and dozens of different awards and recognition for students and staff.

All votes were unanimous unless otherwise noted.

School bus radio network project approved

At the meeting, board members approved a project from the system’s transportation and school safety departments that will fully upgrade the school bus radio network through a partnership with Forsyth County.

During the previous week’s work session held on May 14, Forsyth County Schools Transportation Director Mike Satterfield explained to the board that currently the system’s bus radio network is fully functional but is comprised of various types of aging analog and digital equipment that is becoming more difficult to repair and maintain.

Satterfield said that if approved, the $1,598,706 project would replace the current network with a 100-percent digital system operated through the radio infrastructure used by Forsyth County.

"The improved radio network would be 100 percent digital and all components would be reliable and more readily serviceable now and into the foreseeable future," he said. “Basically, radio communications equipment owned and operated by Forsyth County Schools would be hosted on a radio network infrastructure supported and maintained by Forsyth County.”

According to Satterfield’s presentation, upgrades to the network would include radio tower equipment, 450 school bus and shop vehicle radios, handheld radio units for shop mechanics and supervisors and FCS Transportation dispatch radio and computer equipment. 

Satterfield said that this new radio network would be of a quality on par with those used by Forsyth County’s first responders and the Forsyth County 911 Center.

“These agreements and investments would result in an immediate, overall increase in transportation safety and reliability for Forsyth County Schools and its stakeholders,” he said.  

After a few brief comments from board members, the project was officially approved.

Satterfield said that transitioning of the radio network and installation of the new equipment will be completed before the start of the 2019-20 school year on Aug. 1, 2019.

Proposed school budget for 2020 tentatively approved

Board members also officially voiced their approval for the tentative 2020 Forsyth County Schools budget that was released to the public on May 14.

School system documents show that highlights of the proposed $479 million budget would include raises for thousands of school employees and funding of about 200 new positions within the system.

According to school system Chief Financial Officer Chris Griner, the nearly $19 million in budgeted pay increases are part of the recently-approved Georgia state budget agreement which pledged over half a billion dollars for teacher and school employee raises statewide.

The proposed raises would include $3,000 for all certified school system employees as part of the state’s funding, a 2 percent raise for all classified employees as well as $5 million in step increases for eligible employees.

At the May 14 work session, Griner noted that the 188 new positions included in the budget would encompass dozens of additional teachers, paraprofessionals and other school staff, which he said will help to handle the county and school system’s intense growth.

"All of these, whether it be school based or non-school based, are all based on growth to help maintain the per pupil ratio that we've maintained since 2012,” he said.

Other notable highlights of the 2020 school budget include a proposed millage rate of 17.3 mills, which school officials say has not increased in five years, and a five-star financial efficiency rating with the state of Georgia that the system has achieved for the fourth year in a row. 

As part of their yearly approval process, the system held two public hearings over the proposed budget on May 14 and 21 but received no public comments.

Now that the 2020 budget has received tentative support, it will go back before the board for final approval at a meeting in June.