The Athens-Clarke County School Board approved a tentative budget Thursday night for the 2016 fiscal year of $130 million, $5 million greater than 2015.
Even with an expected $5 million increase in revenue, the school district will still run a $3 million deficit, about the same as this year’s deficit of $2.8 million.
The property tax rate will stay the same at 20 mills.
The budget for instruction will see the most growth, rising from $84 million this year to $87 million next year. This increase, Superintendent Phil Lanoue said, is meant to retain and attract talented teachers by providing a small increase in salary and retirement funds. The turnover rate for teachers was 22 percent, but dropped to between 12–14 percent when the job market worsened and teachers kept the jobs they had, Lanoue says.
The increase will also account for the rising costs of health insurance.
Lanoue also hopes to decrease high school teachers’ class schedule from six to five classes and add 23 teachers, including 10 in special education.
Transportation is the only item to decrease, receiving $8.4 million next year, down $400,000.
The superintendent thanked the community and school faculty for their support despite a projected deficit for the third year in a row. The district is in a good financial position, Lanoue said.
“I feel really good about the budget this year,” he said.
The board approved the tentative budget without much discussion, so now it will move on to three public hearings to in May, and a final vote will follow at the regularly scheduled June meeting.