Comparing Fayette, Coweta schools

Follow the money: Looking at budgets, numbers of students, staff sizes, numbers of schools

Comparing Fayette, Coweta schools

What are the differences between the school systems in Fayette County, Coweta County and Forsyth County in terms of money spent?

The 2017-2018 budget in Fayette has been tentatively set at $203.7 million, while the budget for Coweta is tentatively set at $194 million and Forsyth’s budget is tentatively set at $405 million.

Fayette County schools at the end of April showed 20,058 students.

Coweta County schools at the end of April showed 22,502 students.

Forsyth County ended the school year with 46,400 students and is expecting a 2017-20189 enrollment of nearly 48,000.

Fayette has 24 elementary, middle and high schools while Coweta has 29 elementary, middle and high schools. Forsyth has 37 elementary, middle and high schools.

In terms of employees, the Fayette school system for the coming year is expected to employ a total of 2,704 people, of which 1,454 are teachers. This total does not include substitute teachers.

In Coweta, the school system, excluding substitute teachers, the numbers for the school year just ended totaled approximately 3,000 employees, of which approximately 1,550 were teachers. Forsyth for the school year just ended employed 4,600 full-time employees

Essentially, the Coweta school system has five additional schools, more than 2,400 additional students, approximately 300 more employees than Fayette, but will operate next school year on $10 million fewer dollars.

Though a number of measurements such as SAT scores are often used to define the effectiveness of the Fayette system, that argument loses some of its impact when comparing Fayette to Forsyth County.

Forsyth has twice the budget and substantially more than twice the number of students as Fayette, yet does not have anywhere near twice as many schools, teachers or total employees. Yet Forsyth is generally regarded to have the top school system in Georgia.

Fayette County School System Assistant Superintendent Tom Gray provided a more detailed look at budget numbers as a result of previous articles comparing school systems.

“Recent newspaper articles have compared our budget to the budgets of Coweta County and Forsyth County school districts. The differences in the budgets break down to three main areas: teacher pay, student/teacher ratio, and school size,” Gray said.

On teacher pay, Gray said that, compared to Coweta and Forsyth, Fayette teachers earn an average annual salary of $62,797 compared to $57,660 in Coweta and $58,652 in Forsyth.

Pertaining to student-teacher ratios, Gray said Fayette has 12.42 students per teacher while Coweta has 13.73 and Forsyth has 14.57 students per teacher.

Gray noted that school size is a variable that impacts a school system budget.

“The size of the school affects the budget in two ways. One is that the cost of overall administration per student is lower in a larger school. The other is that when more students are in a school the class sizes can be more consistent with the target class size numbers,” Gray said.

Citing an example, Gray said, “If you have 200 students in a grade level at a school and your target for that grade level is 25 then you will need eight teachers. If those same students are split over two schools with 110 at school A and 90 at school B then you will need five teachers at school A and four teachers at school B. That is one extra teacher at one grade level. Depending on how the numbers fall across this district, this could be a significant number of additional teachers.”

Showing the average school size based on an eight-month enrollment, Gray said Fayette’s average school size is 1,399 students while Coweta averages 2,269 students and Forsyth averages 2,618 students.

When it comes to the property tax millage rate, Fayette’s current rate is 19.75 mills, Coweta’s current rate is 18.59 mills and Forsyth’s rate is 17.3 mills.

In terms of debt, Coweta has no debt and hence no debt millage. Fayette has $53.6 million in debt, with debt service for FY 2018 totaling $6.4 million.

All three school systems have a current 1 percent sales tax.