Chickamauga City Schools introduces budget with added retirement payments, no new teachers

Chickamauga City Schools introduces budget with added retirement payments, no new teachers

June 14th, 2018 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

School superintendent Melody Day, seen in front of a mural of the existing Gordon Lee building, speaks during a Chickamauga City School Board meeting held Tuesday, June 2, 2015, at Gordon Lee High School in Chickamauga, Ga., to inform the public about plans for two 1930s-era buildings on campus. The board's proposal for solving problems related to the age of the buildings includes building new historically-accurate buildings in front of the old ones before demolishing them.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

The Chickamauga City School Board is considering a budget this summer that is relatively flat.

Superintendent Melody Day presented a budget plan to the board Monday evening that would bring in about $10,000 less in revenue than last year's. Meanwhile, spending is down about $315,000.

The biggest source of the spending cuts? About $280,000 less for equipment in Career, Technical and Agricultural Education programs, which a state grant funded last year. Among other expenses, the money provided robotics equipment, a center for engineering, Chromebooks, new computers in a business lab and kitchen appliances for the agricultural department.

The board also set aside $400,000 to pay off debts last year, about twice as much as it plans to spend this year, according to the tentative budget.

Overall, though, the budget does not feature dramatic changes. It does not call for a tax increase, new teachers or major capital expenses, like the work at Gordon Lee High School that contractors finished this spring.

"There's no major boo-boos; there's nothing earth-shattering there," said school board member Billy Ellis, who supports the proposed budget.

Of Day, he said, "She's a pretty good dollar-stretcher."

The other four board members did not return emails seeking their input on the proposed budget.

Like other systems in Georgia, Chickamauga City Schools will receive a boost in state funding. The legislature passed a budget this year that fully covered the amount schools are supposed to receive from the Quality Basic Education funding formula, which gives money to systems based on how many students are in the system and how experienced the teachers are, among other factors.

Before this year, the state had not fully funded QBE since 2002. Last year, for example, the formula called for the state to give Chickamauga City Schools about $7.8 million. But with the formula not fully funded, the state cut about $140,000 from the system.

This year, there are no cuts. And because teachers are more experienced this year, with some adding a master's degree that guarantees them a higher salary, Chickamauga City Schools Finance Director Diane Miller said the QBE formula called for the system to receive $8 million this year. Factor in that the state actually funded the formula all the way this year, and the system is getting about $390,000 more as a result of QBE this year — a 5 percent boost.

But in the school system's budget, part of the added state funding is offset by about $370,000 less in state grants. First, school administrators do not expect to get another $280,000 grant for College, Technical and Agricultural Education programs, which it received last year to coordinate with the new high school building.

Also, the school system expects to receive about $87,000 less this year from equalization. Like QBE, this is a wonky state funding formula, under which school systems generally get extra money based on how the property values in their area compare to state averages. The less land in your area is worth, usually the more money you get from the state. This is supposed to create balance. On Wednesday, Miller said she was not exactly sure why the state is providing less for equalization this year.

On the spending side, the budget calls for about $100,000 more for salaries and benefits. Miller said they don't plan to bolster the roster of 80 classroom teachers in the system's three schools. The added spending is the result of an increase in how much employers must pay for the teachers' retirement fund. Last year, employers had to contribute 16.8 percent. This year, they have to contribute 20.9 percent.

The budget calls for an added $100,000 under school administration. In addition to the retirement fund spending, school officials plan to promote a part-time assistant elementary school principal to a full-time position. Also, the budget calls for some money to improve the principal's offices at Gordon Lee High School.

With the new building, Miller said, school leaders decided to budget some money for some new furniture.

"Not that we wanted to buy all-new everything," she said. "But you hate to open up the new school with furniture held together by duct tape."

Chickamauga City Schools is a small system, with just one elementary school, one middle school and one high school. It had 1,312 total students as of March 1.

The board will hold public hearings on the budget before voting on whether to approve it. Day said she has not scheduled those hearings yet.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.


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