BoE restores $1.2 million to 2,200 employees; Sup’t. Barrow tells board system is ‘out of the fiscal hole’
The Fayette County Board of Education Monday night by unanimous vote restored two furlough days for more than 2,200 school system employees beginning in February. The two furlough days were the last remaining of the five days instituted during the recession.
That means a pay increase of two days’ salary for those employees.
The move by the school board affects employees working more than 180 days per year. Those include teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators and employees in multiple departments and programs.
The furloughs did not affect any employee that normally works 180 days or less, said Assistant Superintendent of Business Services and Personnel Management Tom Gray.
The school board considered two options. Option 1 restored one furlough day at a cost of $616,995 while Option 2 restored both furlough days at a cost of $1,233,900.
Though the second option was selected, Superintendent Jody Barrow prior to the vote recommended the more conservative approach of restoring one furlough day now and considering restoring the second day after the 2014 session of the Ga. General Assembly ends in the spring.
Barrow as an example of his position on the matter cited the potential for legislators to approve a 3 percent pay increase for teachers. While in favor of the increase, Barrow said the local share of that increase would total $1.4 million.
“I think we’re out of the fiscal hole, but I’m concerned that some issues may (have an) impact,” Barrow said before the vote. “I think we can (restore both days) if all things stay equal, but I don’t know what else might happen.”
After a brief discussion, the board voted unanimously to restore both furlough days this school year.
Gray in a detailed report to board members said the FY 2014 fund balance projection for November shows approximately $4.0 million available above the amount committed for technology and a “budgetary reserve” of $16.2 million which is 10 percent of the budgeted expenditures.
“We are seeing minimal budgetary savings in salaries compared to the prior year since we are filling vacancies as they occur to maintain quality instruction in the classroom and operational effectiveness in support of instruction,” Gray said.
This projection reflects a reduction in health insurance costs for the remainder of the year due to 46 fewer employees participating in the health insurance plan since the most recent open enrollment period, said Gray.
Gray said revenues for FY2014 are continuing to trend higher than budgeted. The major area of additional revenue is in automotive ad valorem tax and the title ad valorem tax (when combined).
“We are still expecting a potential downturn in this area as vehicles fall off of the tax digest and the transition to a purely sales tax based revenue stream reaches a stabilized trend,” Gray said.
Referencing the expectations for FY 2015 that begins in July, Gray said he anticipates reduced funding in state (QBE) dollars of $2.95 million. The funding projection also includes 200 fewer certified staff participating in the state health insurance plan and Teachers Retirement System (TRS) matching dollars increasing from 12.28 percent to 13.15 percent.
Gray said a preliminary review of revenues shows a potential increase of $3.6 million or more assuming a flat tax digest.
“Recent increases in economic activity in Fayetteville and the county suggest a potential increase in local revenues. Each 1 percent in the gross tax digest represents about $700,000 in additional property taxes,” Gray said.
On the expenditures side for FY 2015, Gray said the required step increases for certified positions such as teachers will cost approximately $916,000 while the rate increase for the employer-matched TRS is estimated at $1.4 million. The increase in health insurance for classified staff such as parapros will increase by $909,000, Gray said. Those increased expenses total $3.73 million.
“The analysis indicates that the FY2015 budget without staffing or operational changes would be a deficit budget of $3.1 million. This would leave the General Fund with a budgetary reserve between $15 and $17 million depending on other changes to the budget,” said Gray.
Barrow has proven to be more fiscally responsible than his recent predecessors. While some school system employees have long called for restoring the remaining furlough days, Barrow took a more conservative approach, maintaining that the school system should be on firm fiscal ground.
To the chagrin of some, Barrow continues to be adamant that the school system maintain a 10 percent reserve equal to approximately $16 million.
“We will live within our means,” Barrow said Monday.
Barrow in an October open letter to school system employees noted the priority of eliminating the two remaining furlough days of the five that were removed a few years ago during the recession.