Fayette County School System FY 2018 budget: Bigger budget, more employees, fewer students

In 4-year span, Fayette’s school budget may increase $41.7 million to pay for 215 more employees, 108 fewer students

Fayette County School System FY 2018 budget: Bigger budget, more employees, fewer students

A look at budgets and the number of people employed by the Fayette County School System in 2014 and for the 2018 school year shows a proposed 2018 budget increase of 25.7 percent, 215 more employees and 108 fewer students than in 2014.

The proposed budget for 2018 totals $203.7 million, with the school system expecting to employ 2,704 people, excluding substitute teachers. Of that number, 1,454 are teachers and 1,250 are full-time equivalent employees filling the remainder of the school system’s positions.

The school system in 2014 had a budget of $162 million and 2,489 employees, excluding substitute teachers. Of that number, a breakdown showed 1,304 teachers and other 1,185 full-time equivalent employees.

It is known by those keeping up with the school system that enrollment has declined significantly in the past decade. But that decline is nothing new, having begun during the Great Recession.

Enrollment at the end of April this year showed 20,058 students. That compares the 2014 enrollment of 20,166, a difference of 108 fewer students than four years ago.

Those numbers translate into a difference of $41.7 million more, a difference of 25.7 percent, being spent while having an enrollment of 108 fewer students.

Looking at the issue from another perspective, the school system wants to provide cost-of-living increases, step increases and is required to meet financial obligations imposed by the state.

An example of this came up at the first budget presentation earlier in May when Assistant Superintendent for Finance Tom Gray cited a proposal for a total of $9.7 million in salary and benefit increases for the 2017-2018 school year. Those included $3.1 million for cost-of-living increases, $3.2 million for step increases, $3.1 million for the teacher retirement system and $300,000 for increased health insurance costs for classified employees.

What is not currently known is how the budget will play out before its adoption in late June. Also unknown is what the school board will do with the millage rate.

Held for years at the state-allowed maximum of 20 mills, the school board last year lowered the millage rate to 19.75 mills.

By way of comparison, Forsyth County, widely considered to be Georgia’s top school system, has a proposed 2018 budget of approximately $405 million and a current millage rate of 17.3 mills.

Forsyth, more than double the size of Fayette’s system, employs 4,600 full-time employees, has 46,400 students and 37 elementary, middle and high schools. Forsyth’s enrollment for 2018 is expected at nearly 48,000.

As the seventh largest district in Georgia, Forsyth is projected to add over 1,700 new students in 2017-18. Since 2001, the district has grown 170 percent and built 21 new schools, according to the Forsyth County School System.

A point to consider: Unlike the more than 180 other school districts in Georgia, Fayette and Forsyth share two common characteristics. Both are in the top three most affluent counties in Georgia and both rank at the top of Georgia counties in median income and median home prices.