GEORGIA — A revote is tentatively scheduled for late next month on Georgia Elementary and Middle School’s proposed budget for next year.
The Georgia School Board on Tuesday agreed to put a $13.9 million budget before voters after the initial proposed $14.1 million budget was shot down on Town Meeting Day — one of three school budgets to fail across the state on March 2. Board members agreed to hold the vote by Australian ballot on Tuesday, April 27 at the Georgia Elementary and Middle School gymnasium. The actual warning was finalized Thursday, with an informational meeting scheduled for April 20 at 6 p.m.
Unlike on Town Meeting Day, ballots will not be mailed out to voters automatically.
The original proposed $14.1 million budget reflected a 4.51% increase over the prior year, with much of the cost coming down to mandated spending that couldn’t be altered. According to a flyer shared by the school district, health insurance costs accounted for more than 62% of the district’s increased spending, and along with $253,350 in contracted wage increases for teachers, led to a total increase of $610,686 over last year’s budget that couldn’t be altered.
At the board’s March 9 meeting, Georgia Middle School Principal Julie Conrad and Georgia Elementary School Principal Steve Emery said they would revisit the budget and devise options for the board to consider. The $13,942,392 “Plan A” budget proposal board members considered during Tuesday’s special meeting is $177,844 less than the budget that failed on Town Meeting Day.
“When we got to Plan A, we were hoping that was the direction you might go,” Emery told the board.
The savings were largely found by three teaching positions that will be retiring ($73,960), updated tuition numbers accounting for fewer students ($66,864), shifting a portion of nurse position funding to an ESSER grant ($11,300) and projected HRA funding savings ($25,000), according to documents shared with the school board.
A second budget proposal, dubbed “Plan B,” would make the cuts in Plan A along with additional position reductions, bringing savings to $244,073. That budget proposal, totaling $13,896,163, would mark a 2.86% increase over the $13.5 million budget passed by voters last year, while the Plan A budget would mark a 3.2% increase.
Board member Ben Chiappinelli said the Plan B reduction, which would involve a roughly 0.46 full-time enrichment services reduction and cut a general education library paraeducator, would be too much of a reduction. Board Clerk Kate Barnes agreed.
Conrad said the enrichment reduction would reduce services 18% to 19%.
“I think Plan A, we’re already seeing savings, those are numbers we can work with. I don’t see the reason to slice deeply, as Plan B does,” Chiappinelli said. “… I like that Plan A is not a huge step backwards as much as a reallocation of funds and Plan B feels like taking a step backwards to force a number that’s not much better at this point.”
Board member Andrea Milne noted that the elementary supplies budget had increased from $25,000 to $35,000 in both the previous budget and the proposed budget, despite spending last year coming in at $24,000. Milne asked if there were other areas of the budget, such as that supply line, where cuts could be made in order to not affect positions.
“I’ve just been feeling like I’ve been being hit over the head by people lately over our budget,” Milne said, noting that while community members are supportive of the school, there is frustration over the rising budget.
Conrad noted the actual spending on the elementary supply line last year is not reflective of a typical year due to the school shutting down for a period due to the pandemic.
“We don’t have fat really to cut within our budget,” said Conrad. “We’re incredibly, I think, fiscally responsible with our staffing.”
If passed by voters, the Plan A budget would see $15,972 in equalized per pupil spending — up 4.89% from last year — and an estimated actual homestead education tax rate of $1.5826 per $100 property valuation, up 7.43% over last year. This means for a home valued at $200,000, the tax bill would increase by about $219.