June 11, 2013

No tax increase in Dalton schools budget

Board OKs using reserve funds to cover shortfall

By Christopher Smith
christophersmith@daltoncitizen.com

— In light of continued increased costs to run Dalton Public Schools, school board members voted 3-0 Monday night to use about $4.6 million from a $10.6 million reserve fund to cover a shortfall in the fiscal year 2014 budget. But the good news is there won’t be a property tax rate increase this year, Chairman Danny Crutchfield said.

The budget that board members approved for the fiscal year that starts July 1 expects $59.66 million in funding, mostly from local property taxes and the state, and $64.2 million in costs, mostly for employee salaries. That’s up from 2013 when the school system brought in $56.7 million and spent $61.2 million.

Board members Richard Fromm and Tulley Johnson were not at the meeting, although Fromm attended a work session before the meeting.

The bottom line is that it’s taking more to run city schools than ever before, Financial Officer Theresa Perry told board members. Because the school system needs more teachers, salary costs have risen from $33.2 million in fiscal year 2012 to $38.2 million in the new budget.

That increase is tied to the number of students entering city schools, said spokeswoman Pat Holloway. That number has been growing rapidly since 2009 when it was 6,846. On May 30 of this year — the last day of class before summer — there were 7,480 students counted, Holloway said.

As long as the student body continues to grow there will be need for more teachers, school officials said. With more students comes more state funding, but with more teachers also comes more benefit expenses enforced by state law.

The biggest chunk in benefits is health insurance, which is expected to exceed $9,000 a year per teacher within the next few years, Perry said.