Local News

June 25, 2014

No property tax rate increase

Whitfield school board approves budget

The fiscal year 2015 Whitfield County Schools operating budget looks pretty close to the school system’s 2014 budget.

The Board of Education unanimously approved the budget on Wednesday. Fiscal year 2015 starts on July 1.

The budget, which includes almost all operating items, calls for $100.8 million in spending, up from $100.3 million in fiscal 2014.

While the budget forecasts total revenues of $100.3 million, including $72 million in state funding and the rest from local funds, it does not call for any increase in the local school property tax rate of 18.756 mills. However, the school system will dip into its fund balance to cover the difference, and officials forecast their fund balance will be $16.8 million at the end of fiscal year 2015.

“Our system and the administrators are doing a tremendous job using the dollars we have,” said board Chairman Louis Fordham. “From a system standpoint, from a local standpoint, I feel like we are doing as good a job as we possibly can.”

While the state will increase its funding, Fordham said the school system still hasn’t recovered all of the state funding it lost during austerity cuts during the Great Recession.

Board members added one more instructional day to the school year, bringing it to 176 days, and one staff professional day, bringing those to six.

In 2011, the board cut five instruction days from the 180-day student calendar and five of 10 professional days to stave off a financial crisis when local and state funding tightened during the economic recession. The two days are the first restored days since those cuts. Those extra days are expected to cost about $875,000.

Also included in the budget are eight new literacy coaches at a cost of $600,000. The coaches will work as part of the system’s Literacy Initiative, which aims to improve the reading, writing and language skills of students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

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