The Thomas County Board of Education has given tentative approval to a $63.5 million budget for the 2017-2018 school year. The board has scheduled two public hearings prior to final adoption of the budget in compliance with a law passed by the general assembly in 2016 which requires public hearings for school board budgets even if no local property tax increase is anticipated.
The first public hearing will be held in conjunction with a 7:00 p.m., May 23, called board meeting at the Board of Education Meeting Room located at 200 North Pinetree Boulevard, Thomasville. The second hearing will be held in conjunction with the June 13, 2017, board meeting, also at 7:00 p.m. in the Board Meeting Room.
The proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget includes a 2% cost of living increase for all employees, marking the second consecutive year that Thomas County School employees have received a 2% raise following eight years of no salary increases.
Of the $2.3 million increase in general fund expenditures, approximately $1.6 million, or 71% of the increase, is directly due to cost of living and salary step increases and growing employee benefit costs.
During the great recession, the Thomas County School System, the county’s second largest employer, cut nearly 100 positions. “As state funding has begun to rebound, we were able to add back a few teaching positions this year to reduce class sizes and to accommodate enrollment growth,” said Thomas County School Superintendent Dr. Dusty Kornegay.
“We hope to continue that rebound next year by adding teaching positions for 2017-2018 to further reduce class sizes and to better meet the needs of students with special needs. Four new special education teaching positions will be added district-wide to reduce teacher caseloads and better meet the learning needs of students,” Kornegay said.
Total revenue in the FY 2018 budget is projected to increase $2.8 million, all from state sources. Enrollment growth contributed to an increase in funding of $1.7 million through the Quality Basic Education formula.
A decline in Thomas County’s per pupil wealth relative to the entire state allowed the district to earn an additional $1.1 million through the State Equalization program.
The tentative budget assumes no increase in funding from local property taxes.
“We have designed the budget anticipating that revenue from local property taxes will be even with last year,” Kornegay said. “Even though the tax digest will not be available for another couple of months, we have built the budget with the expectation that no local property tax increase will be required.”
At the end of school year 2017-2018, the fund balance is estimated to be approximately $6.5 million or 13% of annual expenditures.
Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Joey Holland commented, “We are fortunate that state revenue increases will be sufficient to cover cost of living salary increases and other rising costs of operating the school district next year.”
“We anticipate future state revenue funding will not always cover expenditure inflation, and this will increase the pressure on local taxpayers. Our tax digest growth over the past five years has averaged about 1.3%, providing very little local tax revenue growth,” Holland said.
The Thomas County School System’s local property tax rate Millage Rate of 14.524 mills is in the bottom 20% of all school districts in the state, ranking 36th out of 180 school systems state-wide.
Final approval of the budget is expected to be considered by the Thomas County Board of Education on Tuesday, June 13, following the second budget hearing.