by Sidhartha Wakade
The Morgan County Board of Education (MCBOE) approved an increased its projected total budget expenditures to about $35.5 million, an increase of about $700,000, a 2 percent increase from the 2018-2019 fiscal year (FY)
Part of the expenditure increase has to do with a $3,000 pay increase to teachers and staff per certified position, an increase in the Teacher Retirement System (an employer paid pension system) funds to about 21 percent and a 2 percent pay raise for classified staff, according to School Superintendent Dr. James Woodard.
Woodard said that the teacher pay raise was much needed, especially for long-time employees.
“That’s a really good thing for some teachers that have not received any increases or minimal increases for the past 10 or 15 years,” he said.
The expenditures are expected to increase due to changes to the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), and Governor Brian Kemp’s campaign promise to raise teacher salaries by $5,000, Woodard explained.
The TRS requirements for employers have been increasing since FY 2012. For FY 2018, the TRS was 16.81 percent, which cost just over $3.2 million. In FY 2019, the TRS shot up to 20.9 percent, which cost about $4.4 million, a $1.2 million dollar increase.
“During the recession… they kept the teacher retirement piece at 10 percent for the employers portion,” Woodard said. “It was set there and stayed there to be able to help systems to keep within some degree of budget, but it was understood that when we came out of the recession… the increases would have to go up.”
Most of the budget goes towards instruction, which includes teachers and staff pay. To pay for the costs, the MCBOE projected total revenue of close to $34 million. About half of that revenue comes from local sources, the highest one being property taxes.
While the millage rate was rolled back to 14.304 mills as of June 1, 2019, property taxes have gone up. Total projected local tax revenue is $15.7 million an increase of $560,000 from last year.
The millage rate for Morgan County is still below the average rate of 17.60, based on revenue comparisons of surrounding counties.
Despite the expenditures exceeding the budget for another fiscal year, the MCBOE has a projected end of the year fund balance of $11.4 million for FY 2020 to be used as a reserve fund in case of a rainy day. This is a drop from the FY 2019 balance of over $13 million, but is better than the funds during the recession according to Woodard.
“It got really low coming out of the recession, but we were able to build back up,” Woodard said. “We’re holding steady.”