With the state budget committing to fully funding the education formula, Rome City Schools Superintendent Lou Byars said the additional $627,576 played a major role in allowing the school system to add almost two dozen classroom teachers and three central office positions this next school year.
Byars said during a budget hearing Tuesday that lawmakers’ decision to fully fund the QBE — Quality Basic Education — formula helped push the system over the hump in meeting the financial demand of adding that many positions. Specifically, a $376,847 increase for salaries under pupil services includes funding a college and career academy CEO in Holly Amerman, a special education director in Kriszti Kilpatrick, and a director of development and special programs in JoAnn Moss. The additional teachers reflect a $1.18 million increase from the 2018 budget, bringing the cost of teacher salaries up to $22.5 million.
With no austerity cuts, the total of projected revenues from the state in Fiscal Year 2019 is $3.24 million. Included in that is $2.04 million in equalization funding — money to supplement school districts with low-property wealth — which represents a 33.4 percent or $512,052 increase from the current budget year. The additional state funds are also due to a bump in enrollment and rising teacher retirement expenses in 2019.
The school system estimates it will pay out over $1.5 million more to the Teacher Retirement System due the employer contribution rate jumping to 20.90 percent from 16.81 percent. Byars said the state only contributes TRS funding for teachers but not for other employees, such as parapros, which the school system covers. He stressed to board members to importance of keeping TRS solvent due to it being a valuable recruitment tool for teachers.
Total 2019 revenues are projected at $56.7 million with a beginning balance of $3.2 million. Expenditures are expected to jump $3.96 million from 2018 for a total of $57.8 million in 2019. The projected ending balance for 2019 is $2.12 million.
Also included in the budget, Byars said, is funding for three more SROs — school resource officers. He said Rome police have committed to providing an additional SRO for Rome High. However, due to limited staffing, the department is not able to commit two additional officers for elementary schools — one for the west side and the other for the east side — right now.
But if the department is able to fill the school system’s request at some point throughout the school year, then the money for those two officers would already be budgeted for. In total for the three SROs, the system is looking at a $45,000 increase in purchased services under maintenance and operations. The school system pays half the salary of SROs.
The system is also adding another nurse at the high school for $50,000.
Not included in the budget presented Tuesday was a proposed increase of $136,785 in the cost of using city transportation for busing students. Byars and board members meet with city commissioners this morning at 8:15 a.m. in the Sam King Room at City Hall to discuss the budget.
Correction: A previous version of this report misstated the amount allocated in the Rome City Schools 2019 budget for the addition of three school resource officers.