Just a decade ago, the Bryan County Board of Education approved a fiscal year 2013 general fund budget of $52.3 million. Enrollment at the time was 8,000. Things have changed since then.
The system’s student population was 10,078 during the academic year that ended in May, and Thursday night, the current crop of Bryan BOE members are expected to adopt the FYI 2023 budget, which includes a general operating fund in excess of $100 million for the first time in the school system’s history. But as enrollment and costs increase – three new schools and one replacement school have opened since 2013, each of which has to be staffed – there is a constant from years past to now. The cost of government revolves largely around people. Much of the FY 2013 budget went to paying salaries and benefits – more than 86 percent – for the district’s 757 employees.
For FY 2023, salaries and benefits for the district’s approximately 1,500 employees adds up to $85.1 million of the $100.3 million of the general fund budget.
“The majority of the increase from the FY 22 budget to the FY 23 budget centers around personnel,” Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher said, in an email. “Increased personnel costs include additional teacher positions that were allotted to the schools and we celebrate the reduction in class sizes across the system. Another contributing factor is the Governor’s $2,000 increase in the state salary scale which will also increase the employer’s portion of certain benefits. In addition, in an effort to remain competitive, the district reviews salary and compensation for every position at least once every five years. Because of this research, we deemed it necessary to increase the salaries of our paraprofessionals, custodians, maintenance, school clerical positions, bus drivers, monitors, and school nutrition staff. Every Bryan County Schools employee will receive at least a 3 percent raise for the upcoming year.”
Salaries, by the way, account for $62.6 million in the FY 2023 budget, but benefits such as insurance and retirement weigh in at more than $23 million. Operations, or the day to day running of the school system, amounts to just under $14.5 million.
School districts operate on a July 1 to June 30 fiscal year, and in the case of the FY 2023 budget, more than $4 million of an approximately $9 million increase over last year is due to increased spending on salaries and benefits, while increases in transportation costs – see related story on pain at the pump – and maintenance and operations also went up, according to the district’s tentative adopted budget available online.
School officials have been quick to note the BoE hasn’t raised the millage rate in years, and at 15.075 its actually lower than the 15.537 it was in 2013. But since 2019 property owners have been paying an additional 1.5 mills in debt service to pay back $100 million in bonds approved by voters in 2017 to fund a number of building projects, including the new Richmond Hill High School.