School Board Adopts New Budget Which Includes Funds for Pay Raises and Land Purchase

May 21, 2020
By: Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education has adopted a budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year subject to final approval by the county commission this summer.

Action on the new budget came during a brief special meeting of the school board Thursday evening at the DCHS Cafeteria.

Director of Schools Patrick Cripps said the budget includes a $2,000 pay raise (including the 2% state increase) per certified employee and a $1,000 increase (locally funded) for each non-certified support staff employee.

“With the $2,000 raise for certified staff the state has sent instructional salary funds to equal our weighted average salary with the state weighted average salary plus 2% that goes on top of our instructional salary funding. That will be an average of around $1,500 coming from the state for salary increases per teacher and then what we would be doing locally is giving them around $500 more to equal the $2,000 total raise. The non-certified raise of $1,000 per staff member will be totally locally funded,” said Director Cripps.

“We are trying to improve teacher pay because we (DeKalb County) still lag behind the state average in teacher salaries,” said Cripps.

The spending plan for 2020-21 is basically the same as this year’s budget with few exceptions.

“We are looking at the same amount of money we had last year not counting step increases. Basically what we are asking for is the raises, increases in employee health care insurance, and funding to buy land for construction of a new school, “ said Director Cripps.

Funds are included in the school budget for the purchase of 24.5 acres of property on North Congress Boulevard near Northside Elementary School for construction of a new pre-K to 2nd grade elementary school. The price is $18,000 per acre for a total of $441,000. The purchase is subject to favorable core drilling and a TDOT traffic study.

No new teaching positions will be created in 2020-21 and to help prevent a reduction in staff due to possible decreases in state BEP funding a few teachers already in the system may be reassigned to fill openings from retirements or to meet other needs.

“We are not asking for any new money for teaching positions but we are looking at adding a teacher in special education. It’s not a new position. Its one we already have but that person will be working with students and teachers in classrooms at every school,” said Cripps.

“We plan to add two in-school suspension aides to share around the schools for another way to discipline students without suspending them or sending them off to the alternative school. We want to keep them in school and not lose them or their academics,” he said.

“Mrs. (Susan) Hinton is retiring (as adult high school coordinator). What I would like to do is move her position to the alternative school so we can add more students there. It also puts another teacher in the building. We would not be losing a teacher nor saving money. We would just be relocating that teacher and while we would keep the adult high school program it would be done online. That’s what a lot of districts are doing now. They are going to an online platform. We already have an online platform that we have been doing with our other students called Ingenuity and students can further their education through that,” Director Cripps continued.

“Mrs. Libby McCormick (Librarian) is also retiring at Northside. Their numbers have fallen at Northside and the Middle School numbers are high. That 6th, 7th, & 8th grade group is huge so we are going to move that teaching position to the middle school to save money. That’s how we are going to look at moving teachers around. We will make sure everybody(school) has enough teachers but we have to be diligent with how we work our personnel with the money being sent to us,” added Director Cripps.

Technology funding will be used to help cover increased costs of textbooks needed to meet the state curriculum.

“Books are going to be out the roof. We were looking at $400,000 to $500,000 for books this year. Digital is not saving us anything either because they are charging a yearly subscription for those. When it first came out you could buy digital cheaper. We were supposed to adopt new math textbooks for next year but the costs have gone up so much the state has postponed that in order for the district to have two years to pay them off. Those books are over $200 each. We are not seeking any additional funds for books. We have moved some money around from technology to books because the money coming from the Federal CARES ACT will be directed toward technology to buy computers, Wi-Fi, etc. so that if we do need to again teach remotely from home each student could have access to those things and WI-FI hot spots,” said Cripps.

Plans are to purchase at least one new school bus.

“We bought two buses last year and we will probably reduce it to one bus this year. It depends on how the money flows,” added Cripps.

The state will also be continuing funding for ACT testing next school year.

“With ACT the state sends us money to test our students but where they (students) didn’t get to take the ACT this year the state is now requiring that we double down and test seniors and juniors so that money sent this year for ACT which wasn’t used will have to be spent and next year they will send more money for ACT testing as well,” said Cripps.

Cripps said the school budget for 2020-21 can be funded with available monies thanks to good management practices of recent years.

“We have done really well with our budgets the last few years keeping about a million dollars to the good,” he said.