Board of Education votes to approve $360 million budget

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

The Henry County Board of Education approved a tentative budget for the 2018 fiscal year in the amount of $360 million, an increase of $19 million from the current budget.

The vote, which came at the May 8 regular meeting, was 3-2 with Annette Edwards and Dr. Donna McBride voting against. The final vote will take place in June.

In addition to 107 added positions, the new budget will include a 3-percent increase for all employees as well as salary schedule adjustments for nurses, school bookkeepers, school secretaries and central office secretaries.

It would make the coming school year the fourth in a row with salary increases and no furlough days for employees. Before that there were five consecutive years with no pay raises and four of those years had furlough days.

About $12 million will be needed from cash reserves to balance this budget, and the projected fund balance is 12 percent according to reports.

The budget is based on a projected 6-percent growth in the tax digest, which amounts to an additional $7 million. Also projected is a $10 million increase in state revenue, although the austerity reduction remains at $4 million.

The employer share of health insurance payments for classified employees will rise from $846 to $945 per month. That cost has steadily risen from $296 in 2012. Also, the employer share of payments toward the Teachers Retirement System is going up from 14.27 to 16.81 percent.

School system officials said the new budget would amount to $9,103 per student based on the projected enrollment of 41,735.

Of the new positions proposed, 95 are school-based and 12 are in the central office. Overall spending on the central office is expected to average $197 per students, less than half the state average of $398.

During the discussion at the board meeting, officials pointed out the overall health of the fund balance compared to peers across the state, and noted the excellent rating by Standard & Poor’s. Many of the new positions were reportedly needed for the rollout of new technology initiatives beginning this fall and would benefit schools directly.

Edwards and McBride both expressed their opposition to the added personnel.