Proposed BoE budget: Goodbye to 82 Fayette teacher, custodian positions
Slots to be eliminated: 63 teachers, 18 custodians, one secretary; adding 1 parapro
The Fayette County School System’s proposed 2012-2013 budget set to be adopted in mid-June shows estimated revenues of $163.1 million and expenses of $178 million — a nearly $15 million shortfall.
Despite $11 million in expenses cut from the current school year the Fayette County Board of Education will still have to use millions in its fund balance to adopt a balanced budget.
The projected $15 million in fund balance expected at the end of 2011-2012 school year on June 30 will be needed to balance the budget, according to Superintendent Jeff Bearden’s proposal that includes $178 million in expenditures and $163.1 million in revenue. Using what is essentially the entire fund balance to balance the 2012-2013 budget will also result in a projected fund balance of $67,425 as of June 30, 2013.
Looking at the revenue side, local property taxes this year were budgeted at $81.6 million and vehicle tags at $6.4 million. For 2012-2013, vehicle tags are expected to remain at the $6.4 million level based on a projected 93 percent collection rate. But property taxes are where the school system will take a large hit. Property taxes are forecast to shrink to $72.5 million, a decrease of more than $9 million due essentially to the 10.39 percent decrease in the tax digest.
The school system for 2012-2013 is also expected to see $220,000 in transfer taxes, $1.1 million in intangible taxes, $25,000 in interest income and $725,000 from other local sources.
As for state (QBE) funding, those dollars budgeted this year totaled $79.6 million while the level next year is expected to increase to $81.4 million, due in part to increases in funding to the teacher retirement system and step salary increases. Other state grants will bring in an estimated $325,000. Comptroller Laura Brock last week said she would report back on QBE earnings toward the end of the fiscal year in June.
The idea of using fund balance to balance the budget is what occurred last year when the fund balance was approximately $26 million and more than half of that amount was used to balance the budget.
So what is the difference in the $186 million in expenses this year and the proposed $178 million for next year?
In all, the proposed reductions in expenses over last year total $11.1 million. Going into the 2012-2013 school year there have been cuts such as the new 177-day school year that takes effect in July that will save $3.4 million and the proposed reduction of staff positions through attrition that will save at least $4.2 million. Other decreases include staff benefits supplements at $2.4 million, central office staffing changes at $388,000, reductions in the operations budget of $762,000 and other benefits adjustments at $269,000.
Offsetting the reductions are approximately $2.8 million in increases relating to health insurance for classified employees, the teacher retirement system and teacher step increases.
Bearden previously noted that 90.8 percent of the schools system’s expenses are in the form of personnel. That translates into the personnel portion of the 2012-2013 expenditures totaling $161.6 million.
With that comes proposed reductions in both certified teaching staff and classified non-teaching staff. Included in the proposed expense reductions are 62.7 fewer teachers for next year. Those reductions include 13.9 high school teachers, 19 teachers in middle schools, 18 in elementary schools, 2 in physical education, 6.5 in special education and 1 counselor. Proposed classified reductions include 3 regular parapros, 13 special education parapros,, 17.5 custodians and 1 secretary/bookkeeper. All but 13 of the positions are funded by general fund sources. Seventeen collaborative parapros are being added for a net increase of one parapro position.
Bearden previously noted the expectation that all of the personnel reductions could come by attrition since the school system loses upwards of 250 staff per year of its more than 3,000 employees.
Another aspect of the personnel reductions rests with the significant loss in student enrollment over the past several years. That decrease in enrollment comes with a decrease in state revenue that totals approximately $4,000 per student.
Fayette schools had a total enrollment of 20,316 in 2001. A study last fall by the Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia showed that the school system added approximately 250-700 students during each of the years through 2006. It was in 2006 that the all-time high enrollment of 22,242 occurred.
The slide in enrollment began in 2007 has continued since that time, with enrollment numbers last fall placed at 20,296. Fayette schools since last year lost more than 700 students. The study projects the downward trend to continue over the next decade with the school system losing a relatively small number of students each year, especially in the next five years and through the end of the study period when Fayette is expected to see an enrollment of 18,647 in 2021. If the projection is correct, that represents a drop of 1,649 students over the current enrollment number.
Coinciding with the increase in students through 2006 was the opening of three elementary schools, one middle school and one high school between 2002-2007 to meet the needs of the rapidly growing Fayette County School System.
The school board in responding to the reduction in student enrollment is considering the closure of Fayette Middle School, Fayetteville Intermediate School, Hood Avenue Primary School, Tyrone Elementary and Brooks Elementary schools. The closure options will also include opening Rivers Elementary School.
Bearden earlier this month said closing the schools and opening Rivers Elementary would bring the county’s elementary schools to an 85-87 percent capacity and would save more than $3 million per year.
The next meeting to discuss the board’s preference on the optional plans is expected to come at a workshop in July or August. The board at that time is expected to make a decision that will provide the school boundary redistricting committee with the information needed to begin its work.
Public hearings will also be held to solicit public input. The entire process is expected to be completed in December in time for the implementation that will take effect in the 2013-2014 school year.
But even if the five schools are closed and more than $3 million saved it remains to be seen how the school board will reckon with not having a substantial fund balance to draw on this time next year when preparing to adopt the 2013-2014 budget.