The Dawson County Board of Education approved its FY20 budgets after the second public hearing at last Tuesday's meeting.
The first budget hearing was held during the May 14 board meeting.
At the first hearing, Financial Director Jamie Ulrich presented a tentative general fund budget based on a projected 10 percent increase of the local tax digest, but said those numbers are subject to change once the school system receives final tax digest projections from the county in the summer.
Ulrich said June 18 that based on preliminary numbers she received from the county, the increase to the tax digest is about 1.68 percent which is expected to bring in almost $21.7 million in local revenue.
Based on the new numbers from local revenue, the general fund numbers have decreased slightly. The board approved a total budget of $49,307,237 with an expected ending fund balance around $3.5 million.
The general fund budget is about $1.4 million less than what was presented in May and about $1.5 million more than last year’s budget.
The majority of the budget (87 percent) is for employee salaries and benefits.
The budget reflects Gov. Brian Kemp’s campaign promise of $3,000 pay raises for certified employees and a 2 percent increase for classified employees, amounting to $1,992,380.
Dawson County Schools is receiving $1,062,355 from the state to pay towards the salary increases; however, it will not cover the cost entirely. Approximately $930,000 of the raises will be paid for by local revenue.
Also included in the approved budget is a one-time allotment of $210,000 from the state for safety upgrades for Dawson County schools. It amounts to $30,000 per school, an initiative spearheaded by Kemp to fund safety upgrades in each of Georgia’s 2,292 public schools.
Other budgets approved during the June 18 meeting were debt service, capital projects, Title I, Title II, Title VIB, state and federal preschool, Bright Start, JROTC and school food service.
In other business:
The board will be discussing a potential ESPLOST referendum at the July 9 board meeting. Superintendent Damon Gibbs will ask the board to vote to approve an ESPLOST referendum to be on the November ballot.
ESPLOST, or the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, is a 1 percent sales tax that is utilized by Dawson County Schools to fund capital projects including constructing new facilities, renovating current ones and replacing the fleet of buses.
The community voted in favor of ESPLOST V in March 2016.
Dawson County Schools has collected about $26.3 million of its maximum $36.5 million collection since ESPLOST V went into effect. It is about $3 million more than projected collections which means that the school system could reach its maximum collection amount before the 60 month term.
A referendum on the ballot in November would allow the community to vote either to continue ESPLOST without a lapse in collections or vote against it.
Millage rate hearings
There will be three millage rate hearings during the board’s August meetings. A morning public hearing will be held at 7:30 a.m. Aug. 6 with a second hearing during the 5 p.m. work session. A third hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 13 during the board’s regular session. All hearings will be held in the board of education meeting room at 28 Main Street.
The school millage rate has been set at 15.778 mills since 2016.
College and Career Academy
In his final comments of the night, Gibbs provided a brief update on the Dawson County College and Career Academy that is set to open in August for students. The facility is set to be handed over the school system in the next two weeks or so, Gibbs said. That will give the school system time to move in furniture and equipment before the school year begins.
Gibbs also said he would like to hold the September board meeting in the meeting room at the facility with a potential open house and ribbon cutting celebration prior to the 6 p.m. meeting. Details have not been finalized at this time.