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RINGGOLD, Ga. — Like other Georgia counties in the area, some of Catoosa County's additional state education funding will go right back into the state's Teacher Retirement System fund after a recent increase in required employer contributions.

Thursday's budget hearing for Catoosa County Schools was the first of two that will be held before the budget is adopted Aug. 20, but it offers an idea of what to expect.

The overall general fund budget is set at $105.5 million.

The school system will get just under $3.8 million in new state funding, but last year, the retirement system board voted to elevate employer contributions from 16.81 percent to 20.9 percent. That means Catoosa will pay $2.2 million of that state money back into the pension fund. Employee contributions, however, have stayed flat at 6 percent.

Another $1 million of the state money goes toward the district's charter system funds, which the district will divide among its 17 schools based on enrollment. Schools decide how best to use the money received.

Then with what's left of the state's funding, the district will spend about $280,000 on health insurance and $950,000 in step salary increases. That's based on an increase in base pay of 3 percent for classified employees and an increase of 5 percent in local supplement pay for certified employees.

After accounting for those mandated expenditures, all the state funding has been spent and $862,000 is left to be paid by local taxes.

The school system has three separate revenue streams: State and local tax, federal grants, and funds from the education special purpose local option sales tax, which is a 1 percent sales tax on all consumer purchases in Catoosa County. It helps pay for various systemwide improvements.

"With [ESPLOST], we provided one-to-one technology in all of our schools through our Let's Get Connected initiative, and our system is recognized in the state for clean, up-to-date, and safe and secure schools," Superintendent Denia Reese said during the budget hearing.

Other significant changes in the budget come from a new category dedicated to instructional professional development. A Georgia law passed last year says expenses for professional development of employees directly tied to instruction must be separated from other professional development expenses, Director of Finance Blake Stansell said.

Listed under revenue, "other local sources" is up by about $840,000 from last fiscal year. This is because the system pays some school expenses — things like field trips — in advance and the individual schools pay them back later.

"This category includes those revenues, and it is a new way we are reporting these funds for increased accuracy and accounting," Stansell said.

The system's next budget hearing will be held on Aug. 2.

Contact staff writer Rosana Hughes at rhughes@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6327 with tips or story ideas. Follow her on Twitter @HughesRosana.

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