The Catoosa County school board will be approving the system’s 2019 budget on Aug. 20. Expenses are up this year and the system is looking at a shortfall of $2,501,019, though that number will probably be lower, says Director of Finance Blake Stansell, because the board overestimates for some expenses, like how many employees will enroll in the system’s health insurance plan.
Superintendent Denia Reese says any shortfall will be covered by reserve funds the system keeps for just such occasions.
The system’s Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) budget comes to $108,052,246. Expected general funds income is slated at $105,551, 227.
Changes adding to expenses this year include the hiring of 13 more teachers, five paraprofes-sionals and one school psychologist, as well as the addition of five resource officers to increase security at elementary schools. While the school system is assuming the cost of salaries and benefits for the resource officers — $200,000 total, the county is covering uniforms, vehicles and other incidental expenses.
The Catoosa County Board of Education will approve its 2019 budget and the change to the millage (property tax) rate on Monday, Aug. 20, at 6 p.m. during a meeting at the board’s meeting room at the school system’s administrative office building at 307 Cleveland St., Ringgold.
Another cost for the school system is state-mandated contributions to the Teacher Retirement System. The rate is going up from 16.81% last year to 20.90% this year, making the FY19 total contribution $11,100,000.
Teachers will see a 5% increase in their local supplemental pay. Teachers receive the bulk of their pay from the state, but local school boards can choose to supplement that pay. The Catoosa County Board of Education chose to do that many years ago, but it has been over 20 years since there has been any increase in that pay for teachers. Reese says she has been working for an increase for teachers since 2015 when a six-year strategic plan was implemented.
The school board also plans to increase the base salary of classified employees (janitors, bus drivers and others) by 3%. These employees are paid from local resources and not by the state.
Factoid: The Catoosa school system estimates it will have 10,435 students this year. It employs 819 teachers and 171 paraprofessionals.
There has been an increase of 2% in the system’s insurance package. Annual “Step Increases,” mandated by the state for employees and based on their length of service and additional educa-tion they receive, come to $950,000.
Other increases in costs range from extra resources for media services to administration, better internet service and higher utility costs.
Catoosa County schools will receive $5 million more in funds this year than last, most of it – $4.2 million — from the state. Part of that money is the result of a measure passed by the Geor-gia Legislature requiring that the Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding formula be fully funded. QBE, established in 1985 under Gov. Joe Frank Harris, is a plan for equalizing spending on schools throughout the state. In the past, the legislature has approved “austerity cuts” to the funding, which resulted in less money for schools than the Act originally mandated. The elimination of the austerity cuts in the last legislative session is resulting in an extra $1.2 million for Catoosa Schools. The total amount Catoosa County Schools will receive from the state is just over $74 million.
The Board of Education has chosen to lower the FY19 millage (property tax) rate from 17.756 mills to 17.171 mills to offset the higher assessments of property values this past year. Under the new tax rate, the school system expects to collect $27,804,990, which is $44,471 more in property taxes than under FY18 tax rate ($27,760,519). The increase in collection is due mainly to new construction.