May 14, 2013

Dalton school board budget has no tax increase

Dalton Board of Education members approved a tentative general fund budget Monday that includes no property tax increase but is expected to use about half of their reserve funding to help cover expenses for the upcoming school year.

In a unanimous vote, board members agreed to a tentative budget of $59.66 million in revenues and $64.34 million in expenditures.

The difference comes from fund balance, which is extra money the school system keeps in reserve to, among other things, cover unexpected expenses and to pay bills while waiting on tax collections. They expect to begin the school year with a little more than $10 million in fund balance and end with about $5.5 million.

Board members are expected to finalize the budget at their Monday, June 10 meeting. The budget takes effect July 1.

The proposed budget is about $3 million more than the budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, with the majority of the additional expenses go to pay for more teachers.

Financial Officer Theresa Perry said officials are projecting a slight enrollment increase based on a formula that takes into account increases from previous years, and with that increase will come some additional state funding. However, health insurance for most non-teaching employees is also rising by $1,800 per person to $7,200 per person, accounting for another chunk of the budget increase.

The tentative budget projects local property taxes and other revenue are expected to increase slightly from $25.91 million this year to $27.53 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1. Combined state and federal funding are also projected to rise from $30.82 million to $32.13 million.

In other business Monday, board members:

• Approved an administrator salary schedule officials said will allow them to compensate employees based on criteria other than only their years of experience and level of formal education. The salary schedule provides five levels of administration to factor in the job’s responsibilities, and it establishes a salary range for each level.

For example, community relations and student information administrators, who are considered “Administrator Is,” would make a minimum $70,500 and maximum $87,000 salary. Elementary school principals, who are considered “Administrator IIIs” would earn between $78,000 and $97,500. The Dalton High School principal and deputy superintendent — top of the tier as “Administrator Vs” — would be paid $96,000 to $120,000.

Officials said no one is at the top of the highest range now, but establishing the schedule provides room for growth.

• Approved a previously-discussed rezoning to address overcrowding at Blue Ridge and Park Creek elementary schools by moving some students to Roan School. Enrollment numbers are in flux, but when school officials discussed the move in April, they expected to transfer 69 students from Blue Ridge and 23 from Park Creek.

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