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June 2, 2014

Whitfield schools aim for only slight increase in spending

The Whitfield County Board of Education isn’t looking to make any big changes in its fiscal year 2015 budget.

The board held a public hearing on the budget Monday night at the system’s central office. No members of the public spoke at the meeting.

The proposed general budget, which includes almost all operating items, calls for $100.9 million in spending, up from $100.3 million in fiscal 2014, which ends on June 30.

While the budget forecasts total revenues of $100.6 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 $16.7 million at the end of fiscal year 2015.

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 school 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 approved Monday 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.

Officials noted the system has spent less than it has budgeted for the past six years.

“We run a pretty tight ship,” Chief Financial Officer Daniel Theis said. “We’ve been doing a good job of watching our spending.


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