Forsyth County School Board approves tentative budget, pay increases for substitute teachers

John Thompson

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The Forsyth Board of Education held its regular meeting May 17.(Photo/John Thompson)

(Forsyth County, GA) The Forsyth County Board of Education took the next step in funding the school system for the next fiscal year. The proposed budget was approved by a 3-1 vote during a meeting on May 17. Vice Chairman Kristin Morrissey was absent from the meeting due to graduation activities with her family.

Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden explained the $579 million general fund final budget must be approved by the board on June 21 for the new fiscal year that starts July 1.

The budget includes an increase for substitute teachers, currently paid $85 per day. Under the proposed budget, non-certified substitutes would make $120 a day; certified substitutes would earn $145 a day.

“This makes us regionally competitive with other systems,” said Bearden.

The school district will also reserve $12.9 million for a one-time supplement to all employees' salaries next fiscal year.

It also expects to collect $589 million in revenue, leaving an excess of $10 million that Bearden said will be put in the reserve fund.

Bearden said the school district would use $33 million to drop the county’s debt service millage rate from 2.41 mills to 1.41 mills. The maintenance and operation millage rates remain at 17.3 mills for the eighth straight year, Bearden added.

“We still have a month left for any clarifying questions you may have,” Bearden said.

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Chief Financial Officer Larry Hammel explains the 2023 budget.(Photo/John Thompson)

Chief Finance Director Larry Hammel reiterated how fiscally conservative the school system is compared to other systems in the state.

“The Atlanta Public School System passed a $1.4 billion budget, and they have fewer students that we do,” said Hammel.

Forsyth County spends just over $9,000 per student, while Atlanta pays more than $20,000. Forsyth County Schools also got a five-star rating for its conservative fiscal policies in past years. The State has not evaluated systems during the two-year pandemic, but Hammel expects Forsyth County Schools to get the top rating again.

Bearden put the school system’s budget in perspective.

“If I had a kid in the school system, I would be paying $23.42 in taxes per day for education,” he said.

The proposed budget represents an 11.32 percent increase over last year, mainly from no austerity cuts and loss of state funds implemented during the pandemic from the state, and an increased county ad valorem tax base.

Chairman Wes McCall, the lone vote against the tentative budget, outlined his reasoning.

“We have to balance the quality of life between our staff and citizens. The pay increases are good, but there might be an opportunity for more,” McCall said.

He also worried about the sustainability of future budgets.

“These new positions will roll into the budget next year,” he said.

Bearden said the school district

is also concerned about sustainability but said a safeguard is built into the budget.

“Our budget contains a 15 percent fund balance that we can dip into,” said Bearden.

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