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Local metro school districts prioritize teacher raises, reading programs and more.

Several school districts in the metro Atlanta area are finalizing their FY2025 budgets now. Here are the priorities for each district’s upcoming budget.

Fulton County Schools

The Fulton County School Board approved the tentative budget during a board meeting on May 15. Marvin Dereef, Fulton’s Chief Financial Officer, presented the budget for the board’s approval. Here are some key amounts for the budget.

  • General Fund: $1,422,055,825
  • School Nutrition Fund: $57,085,647
  • Special Revenue Fund: $54,173,065
  • Capital Program Funds: $660,668,166
  • Pension Fund: $42,099,757
  • Student Activity Fund: $90,255,290

The total appropriation amount for all funds is $2,293,479,271

Dereef also mentioned new developments the budget would impact in the county, including the superintendent’s recommendation of a 4.5% increase and step increase for all eligible employees, instructional coaches, summer learning costs, and funds for textbook adaptations. He also noted that Fulton will open a new school called the Promise Career Institute and invest in a professional development initiative called Level Up Fulton.

On Fulton’s Superintendent’s Budget Recommendation, the budget priorities listed on the “Bridge To Success Plan” read as follows.

“We will prioritize safe environments for face-to-face instruction.We will utilize the FCS Bridge to Success plan to recover from learning disruption. We will establish transformative approaches to literacy instruction. We will develop our leaders throughout the organization using High-Quality Professional Learning. We will also improve and expand existing program options for students, staff, and parents. We will ensure continuity of district operations.”

Atlanta Public Schools (APS)

APS listed four strategic priorities in its FY2025 Tentative Budget. These priorities include fostering academic excellence for all, building a culture of student support, equipping and empowering teachers and staff, and creating a support system for schools. These priorities are part of a five-year strategy from 2020 to 2025.

Key takeaways from the tentative budget include the following:

• $11.8 million to continue the “Readers are Leaders” initiative, bringing literacy coaches and professional learning to every elementary school

• $7.8 Million to ensure one additional position in every school to support the whole-child

• $9 Million in new investments for Special Education Invest in Our People:

• $58.9 Million in new investments for teacher salary increases, retention stipends, and non-teacher cost of living adjustments

• Salary & Compensation: Average 11% increase for teachers and average 3-5% increase for non-teachers

• Retention and Recruitment Stipends: $8.2 million to include: H1-B Visa Sponsorship, Early Hiring Incentives, and Retention Incentives for Hard-to-fill subject and high-needs schools

• $1.5 million in new investments for Leadership, Teacher, and Career Development programs Strengthen The Systems

• $15.4 Million to bring the nutrition program in-house

• $720 thousand for Safety and Security to support new police vehicles to enhance police response to elementary schools as well as a coordinator for police intervention practices

• $1.4 million to continue funding long-term school-based substitute teachers.

Dr. Lisa Bracken, APS’s Chief Financial Officer, led a presentation about reimplementing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) during the Budget Commission Meeting on May 16th. The presentation highlighted how APS’ current ERP is over 20 years old and argued that it needs modernization. The project is estimated to cost anywhere between 45 to 50 million over the next five years. 

“We have had five years of unprecedented resources and revenue just as every other school district has through ESSA and strong local revenue.” said Bracken. “And we are not there anymore. So everything that we’re doing at this point is a trade-off and a conversation of yes, we can start this now. What does that mean for next year? What is this program? Is it not working? Do we invest more? Do we let it go? This is the appropriate place for us to have these talks but this should be the expectation going forward, it will be harder to make decisions as we prioritize.”

Cobb County Schools

Superintendent Chris Ragsdale proposed during the April board meeting that Cobb’s FY2025 budget includes a significant 4.4%- 9% raise for every non-temporary staff member in the District. The raise consists of a salary step increase for all eligible employees and reflects the $2,500 raise Gov. Brian Kemp budgeted for teachers.

Cobb’s FY2025 General Fund is approximately $1.7 billion. According to its FY2025 Budget Popular Report, the biggest area the fund, with 71% going to, is instruction. The second biggest area is School Administration at 6.35%, then Maintenance and Operation of Plant Services, (6.20%) Student Transportation, (4.56%) Central Support Services, (2.68%) Pupil Support Services, (2.66%) Improvement of Instructional Services, (2.36%) Educational Media Services, (1.57%) General Administration, (1.01%) and Support Services – Business (0.77%.) 

Some initiatives in the report include the final year for the American Rescue Plan, which aims to address the learning losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and return to safe in-person instruction. The district used CARES I & CARES II Funding to offset State austerity reductions and support the continuity of classroom services. During the pandemic, Cobb County Schools recently received $160.7 million in American Recovery Plan . Unused funds will be redistributed based on district needs and priorities. 

Ragsdale wrote the following message to Cobb citizens in the report.

“Our budget reflects the priorities of our District and the community as a whole. Understanding our budget is essential as we work together as One Team with One Goal to achieve Student Success.” 

Dekalb County Schools

In Dekalb County’s FY2025 Budget Discussion presentation, there are several ongoing funded and proposed initiatives. 

Ongoing funded initiatives include MTSS specialists, ERP implementation, FACE advocates, early learning expansion, horizon support, deferred maintenance, additional school support, and Ignite Teacher Residency. Proposed initiatives include compensation & classification study, Step, retention/new hire supplements, EIP Advancement, three advisors per high school, one athletic director per cohort, capital improvement, and a security associate at elementary schools.

The total expenditures for the county are $2,061,399,107, according to its tentative budget.

The district scheduled its upcoming budget hearings for this month, with the first scheduled for June 17th.

Clayton County

According to a report from Clayton News, The Clayton County Board of Education has approved its tentative budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year during its meeting on May 6.

Clayton’s Tentative Adoptive Budget reads, “Guided by the above assumptions, the FY 2025 funds will be used to ensure the district is in compliance with federal mandates, fund increases in insurance and address safety and security concerns of the district. It is anticipated that the fund balance will fall within the guidelines set by the Board policy and State ensuring that funds would be available for any unforeseen expenditures or emergencies. The Superintendent’s proposed budget continues to address the critical needs of our students and improving academic achievement.”

Strategic goals for the budget include increasing and accelerating academic achievement for all scholars, including students in all special programs, recruiting and retaining highly qualified effective staff, creating an equitable and safe environment, providing support services for high achievements, creating and assessing equity metrics, and establishing a creative district where scholars and the community have access to the arts.

Some key amounts are listed below.

  • General Fund Budget: about $688.3 million
  • Special Revenue Fund: $136.9 million
  • Capital Projects Fund: $395.8 million
  • Enterprise Fund: $66.9 million

The Board of Education looked at some proposed changes to the budget, including pay increases for staff members, during its June 3rd board meeting. For certified staff, the proposal consists of a 4-8% salary increase, a $1,000-$1,400 attendance incentive, and a $1,500 loyalty incentive. For classified staff, the proposal includes a 4.1% salary increase for bus drivers and nutrition workers, a step increase equivalent to a 3% increase for classified staff pay grade 29 and below, attendance and loyalty incentives, a  $500 spring break appreciation incentive for classified staff pay grade 29 and below, and a $1,000 salary supplement for custodians.

“We recognize that our teacher’s salaries are not as competitive as we would like.” said Superintendent Dr. Anthony Smith. “But I feel like year after year if we keep building on it, we’ll get there. We feel like this is a very comprehensive compensation package.”

However, Clayton County residents and board members are concerned about the raises. They want to ensure they will be in place and paid for to give the staff security. The boards will continue hearing about their budgets throughout this month. 

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