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Forsyth County Schools plans for staff salary increases, new positions in 2023 tentative budget
07152020 Board of Education 1

Forsyth County Schools released a tentative operational budget of more than $589 million for the 2023 fiscal year after a Board of Education work session on Tuesday, May 10, which would allow for staff salary increases and new employee positions.

Chief Financial Officer Larry Hammel presented the tentative budget to the board at its work session, explaining that the proposed budget of $578,498,654 would be an increase of about $58.4 million from this past year’s budget of approximately $520 million.

Hammel said the increased budget, the amount in expenditures the school system is expected to incur throughout the year, is partially due to an increase in the number of students and the opening of New Hope Elementary School.

By the beginning of the next school year, Hammel said the district’s student population will rise to more than 54,000 students overall.

“That will make us the fifth largest school system in the state of Georgia,” Hammel said. “We’ve surpassed Clayton County and Atlanta Public Schools to get to that position.”

In order to support the increased number of students and the new elementary school, which is scheduled to open in August, the district is expected to add 272 positions at the school level. Outside of the schools, FCS plans to add another 12 positions.

While the cost for those positions is estimated to be an added $23.7 million, Hammel emphasized that FCS had the lowest per pupil expenditures out of the 12 largest districts in the state in fiscal year 2021, the latest data available through the Georgia Department of Education.

Aside from the student population, Hammel said a large reason for the increased budget is the district’s decision to add sweeping staff salary increases.

That includes a step increase, which is a pay increase for most district staff based on experience and years spent in the position, along with a 1% cost-of-living adjustment for all staff members.

FCS will also begin to offer a minimum of $15 per hour for all hourly employees for the 2022-23 school year. FCS spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said starting hourly rates will likely include:

●     $15.15 for bus monitors;

●     $15.15 for custodians;

●     $15.15 for school nutrition;

●     $18.02 for bus drivers.

Caracciolo explained that there will also be salary adjustments for school nurses, secretaries and paraprofessionals. These hourly rates are expected to include:

●     $16.09 for paraprofessionals;

●     $16.37 for administrative support;

●     $17.95 for certified paraprofessionals.

Hammel said the district also plans to make significant changes to pay for its substitute teachers to offer a rate that is more competitive with comparable school districts. While the district now pays $85 per day, leaders plan to offer $120 per day for non-certified substitutes and $145 per day for certified substitutes.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp also provided state funding to school systems to provide $2,000 bonuses to teachers in local school districts.

Overall, 88% of the operating budget will be spent on salaries and benefits with 72% of expenditures going directly to instruction.

“As stated in our newly adopted strategic plan, Forsyth County Schools is committed to providing an unparalleled education for our students,” Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden said. “Our FY23 budget proposal includes a competitive salary and benefit package for our employees while remaining fiscally responsible to our citizens.”

Hammel explained during the presentation that revenues will also be on the rise, increasing from approximately $508.8 million this year to a projected $589,786,626 for FY 2023.

Just over 46% of that is state revenues, which increased from previous years because of the added $2,000 in teacher bonuses and funds being distributed back out to local school districts after austerity cuts made during the pandemic.

The other nearly 54% is local revenues, which also increased from previous years. Hammel explained most of this increase is due to the nationwide increase in property values and goods.

While property values rise, FCS plans to keep the millage rate at 17.3 mills for the eighth consecutive year, and the debt services millage rate will be lowered from 2.418 to 1.418 — bringing it back down to its 2010 rate.

FCS will hold budget and millage rate meetings to give the community a chance to learn more. Budget hearings will be held on June 7, at 8:30 a.m. and June 16, at 5 p.m. Millage rate hearings will be held June 7, at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and on June 16, at 5:30 p.m.

The tentative budget and millage rate will then be presented to the BOE again on June 21 for final approval.

For more information, visit the district’s website at Hammel’s presentation at the work session is also available to watch on the district’s YouTube Channel, Forsyth County Schools (Georgia).