Board Business Briefs: School Board Approves Budget with Teacher Raises, No Millage Increase
From left, Kelly Flatt, Jason Meade and Justin West.
The Cherokee County School Board on Thursday, June 15, 2023 approved a budget for next school year that improves teacher and support staff compensation and keeps class sizes low without a millage rate increase.
The general fund budget for day-to-day operating costs was approved at $538 Million, which includes $20 Million to increase salaries for teachers and support staff and fund a recruitment and retention bonus. The total budget, which also includes construction projects, such as the new replacement Cherokee High School and Free Home Elementary School; debt service and a strong emergency reserve, was approved at $832.8 Million.
“I have two biological children, but I have 42,000 children I’m looking out for each day, and I want them to have the best teachers,” School Board member Kelly Poole said as she approved the budget, noting its significant new investment to keep teacher salaries competitive. She also applauded staff for doing this without raising class sizes. “Increasing class size would be detrimental to everyone – students and teachers.”
The full budget is posted online at https://www.cherokeek12.net/open-ccsd, as is CCSD’s Financial Facts report, which explains the budget through short articles and infographics.
The millage rate was approved to remain at 17.95 mills, which is the same as last year when the rate was decreased significantly by 1.5 mills. Some property owners will see increased tax bills due to higher property assessments caused by increasing home and land prices. The school board does not determine property value.
The school board held three public hearings on the budget, with five speakers in total. A common thread was concern over the senior school property tax exemption cap. Seniors 62 and older are eligible for the tax break, which increases each year in accordance with the Social Security cost of living adjustment. Currently, seniors don’t have to pay taxes on up to $485,500 of assessed property value; if their home is valued at more than that, they pay taxes only on the exceeding amount.
The cap is set by state law. To change it, the local legislative delegation and then the state legislature would need to pass a bill and then put the issue on the ballot for voters countywide to decide. Ms. Poole said she supports the state legislature reevaluating the current law.
As part of the district’s efforts to keep pay competitive in a challenging job market, teachers will receive a $4,500 raise (this includes the Governor’s $2,000 raise), as well as any annual step increase for which they are eligible. Classified staff will receive a 3% pay increase plus any step increases. Bonuses of $1,000 for full-time employees and $500 for part-time employees will be issued in September.
Another challenge to this year’s budget was the state’s decision to increase the employer share of paying for employees’ participation in the state health benefits plan. This cost to CCSD is jumping by 67% for certified employees, from $945 to $1,580 per month per certified employee (which includes teachers) and to $1,195 per classified employee (support staff), with additional increases for 2024-25.
As part of its monthly personnel agenda item, the school board approved the appointment of two assistant principals to fill vacancies. Kelly Flatt, an assistant principal for Pickens High School with 15 years of education experience, is joining Etowah High School, and Jason Meade, an assistant principal for Marietta High School with 20 years of education experience, is joining Sequoyah High School. Sequoyah HS assistant principal Justin West is transferring to River Ridge HS to serve as an assistant principal and athletic director.
The school board also:
• Recognized River Ridge High School as the winner of the regional Top Performing High School award presented by Blood Assurance. Learn more here;
• Recognized CCSD's Georgia High School Association state and regional champions. Learn more here;
• Recognized CCSD student athletes honored as Positive Athlete regional award winners and state and regional scholarship winners. Learn more here;
• Recognized Creekview High School Class of 2023 graduate Rachel Lathem as winner of the 2022-23 Judy Johnson Memorial Scholarship. Learn more here;
• Recognized i-Grad Virtual Academy Class of 2023 graduate Kaliyah Thompson as her school’s 2023 ABM Industry Group LLC scholarship winner. Learn more here;
• Approved the renewal of Partnership Agreement with Cherokee County 4-H Program and a new Partnership Agreement with Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University;
• Approved the first reading of annual updates to School Board Policies;
• Approved monthly financial reports;
• Approved the annual plan for Career, Technical and Agricultural Education program improvement and funding;
• Approved out of state staff travel;
• Approved out of state and overnight student field trips;
• Approved the monthly update on capital outlay projects;
• Approved special lease agreements;
• Approved the annual appointments to the tribunal panels for certified personnel employment contract termination or suspension hearings and for student disciplinary hearings; and,
• Authorized the Superintendent to negotiate the purchase of real estate.