At the start of the next school year, Hammel said the district’s student population will grow to more than 54,000 total students.
“This will make us the fifth largest school system in the state of Georgia,” Hammel said. “We passed Clayton County and Atlanta Public Schools to get to this position.”
To support the increased number of students and the new elementary school, which is slated to open in August, the district is expected to add 272 grade-level positions. Outside of schools, FCS plans to add 12 more positions.
While the cost of these positions is estimated at an additional $23.7 million, Hammel pointed out that FCS had the lowest per-student spending among the state’s 12 largest districts in fiscal year 2021, the latest data available through the Georgia Department of Education.
Besides the student population, Hammel said a major reason for the budget increase was the district’s decision to significantly increase staff salaries.
This includes an increment, which is a salary increase for most district employees based on experience and years in the position, as well as a 1% cost of living adjustment for all staff members.
FCS will also begin offering a minimum of $15 per hour to all hourly employees for the 2022-23 school year. FCS spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo said starting hourly rates would likely include:
● $15.15 for bus monitors;
● $15.15 for goalies;
● $15.15 for school nutrition;
● $18.02 for bus drivers.
Caracciolo explained that there will also be salary adjustments for school nurses, secretaries and paraprofessionals. These hourly rates should include:
● $16.09 for paraprofessionals;
● $16.37 for administrative support;
● $17.95 for certified paraprofessionals.
Hammel said the district also plans to make significant changes to paying its substitute teachers to provide a more competitive rate compared to comparable school districts. While the district now pays $85 a day, leaders plan to offer $120 a day for uncertified locums and $145 a day for certified locums.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp also provided public funding to school systems to provide $2,000 bonuses to teachers in local school districts.
Overall, 88% of the operating budget will be spent on salaries and benefits, with 72% of expenses going directly to education.
“As outlined in our recently adopted Strategic Plan, Forsyth County Schools is committed to providing an unparalleled education for our students,” said Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden. “Our FY23 budget proposal includes competitive pay and benefits for our employees while remaining fiscally responsible to our citizens.”
Hammel explained during the presentation that revenue will also increase, from about $508.8 million this year to an expected $589,786,626 in fiscal 2023.
Just over 46% of that revenue is state revenue, which has increased from previous years due to an additional $2,000 in bonuses for teachers and funds redistributed to local school districts after government cuts. austerity measures carried out during the pandemic.
The other 54% is local revenue, which has also increased compared to previous years. Hammel explained that most of this increase is due to the increase in the value of properties and assets nationwide.
As property values rise, FCS plans to hold the mileage rate at 17.3 mills for the eighth consecutive year, and the debt service mileage rate will be lowered from 2.418 to 1.418, bringing it back to its rate of 2010.
FCS will be hosting budget and mileage rate meetings to give the community a chance to learn more. Budget hearings will be held June 7 at 8:30 a.m. and June 16 at 5 p.m. The mileage rate hearings will be held June 7 at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and June 16 at 5:30 p.m.
The draft budget and mileage rate will then be presented again to the BOE on June 21 for final approval.
For more information, visit the district’s website at www.forsyth.k12.ga.us. Hammel’s presentation from the business session is also available on the district’s YouTube channel, Forsyth County Schools (Georgia).