The Bryan County Board of Education will increase its budget by $5.6 million for the 2016 fiscal year, but will not raise taxes along with it.
The school board unanimously approved the $61.1 million budget Thursday night. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
The $5.6 million increase from the previous budget is due largely to adding 59½ positions to support rapid student growth and the opening of McAllister Elementary School, Superintendent of Schools Paul Brooksher said.
“Being a high-growth district, you have to add people,” he said.
The budget also includes a financial benefit for all school-system employees, an increase in the school system’s match for employees’ retirement funds and $1.5 million toward capital improvement projects.
“It includes all that on top of opening a new school,” Brooksher said. “So it’s a great budget — with no tax increase.”
The Board of Education kept the millage rate the same as last year at 15.537. This is the sixth consecutive year the school board has not raised taxes.
With the addition of McAllister Elementary, Bryan County will operate 10 schools in 2015-16. The board budgeted 1,028 full-time positions for the upcoming school year, at an estimated cost of $53 million.
Teaching positions were added throughout the school district based on growth and need, according to Brooksher, but “McAllister did take the lion’s share.” While several teachers are transferring to McAllister from Richmond Hill Primary, Richmond Hill Elementary and Carver Elementary, Brooksher said, the board had to create several positions for the new school such as its principal, assistant principal, media specialists and custodians.
The budget also includes $1.2 million for all employees to receive a one-time payment of 3 percent of their salary. The Board of Education gave a similar bonus in fall 2012.
“It’s good to do this for your folks,” Brooksher said. “School systems wouldn’t work without great people.
“Do we wish we could do more? Yes,” he continued. “But it’s something to say ‘thank you’ for the great job they do every day.”
Along with the 3 percent salary payment, the budget puts an additional $250,000 toward the 403(b), a retirement savings plan for school system employees similar to the 401(k). The Bryan County Board of Education will now match 3 percent of employee contributions rather than 2 percent.
The $1.5 million for improvement projects is a budget transfer from the general fund to the capital-projects fund. The budget has $318,000 in special budget allocation requests, including money for updating the strength equipment at Richmond Hill High School, lightning detectors for all middle and high schools and a new communication system for bus drivers.
The board plans to use approximately $1.6 million of its current reserve toward the fiscal 2016 budget, but will still maintain a “healthy” year-end fund balance, according to Brooksher.
“As a rapidly growing school district, we are confident the FY 2016 budget is solid and designed to support the students of Bryan County,” school board Vice Chairman Joe Pecenka said.