Unlike other school systems in the metro area that have been hit hard by falling county tax digests, officials said City Schools of Decatur (CSD) is projected to have a surplus and a well-balanced budget in 2013.
Officials in the DeKalb County School District (DCSD) proposed a budget with cuts to programs, staff layoffs and other fiscally conservative measures. However, new CSD Director of Finance Susan Hurst said CSD, which serves approximately 3,550 students, isn’t having the same problems.
Last year, CSD raised its millage rate from 19.9 to 20.9 and Hurst said this year the rate will remain the same. That will enable the district to have a projected savings of $446,502.
“Everything is good here. Even with leaving it at the 20.9 mills we’re still looking at a small growth instead of a small decline and that’s based on information I’ve received from the county tax assessor’s office in the past week,” Hurst said.
Hurst, who has only been with CSD a few weeks, was previously the director of school budgets for DCSD. She said it appears CSD hasn’t been affected as badly as DCSD by the decline in property values. Hurst said last year DCSD had a 14 percent decline and this year, although officials originally estimated a decline of 6 percent, the school district is facing a decline that is closer to 9 percent.
“Really they’ve been very conservative,” Hurst said of CSD, “and they’ve done a really good job with funding. Plus they’ve just not taken the hit the county has with foreclosures and home devaluations.”
The fiscal year 2013 budget, which is approximately $53.6 million, includes a growth of 17 school-based and two central office positions, a restoration of pre-K and no salary increases.
According to the budget, employee benefit costs are rising because of an increase in health insurance costs. The budget also reflects an increase in the teacher retirement rate to 11.41 percent up from 10.28 percent.
“The board of tax assessors is supposed to have one more meeting on June 26 and the numbers may change—they’re not going to certify their digest ‘til July 27,” Hurst said.
Hurst said part of the difficulty of managing the budget of a school district is the tax digest is not being finalized until several weeks or months after districts need to propose a budget, and that officials are working with only rough estimates.
CSD’s 2013 budget process began in January and the tentative budget was brought before the CSD School Board May 8.
State revenues in 2013 are expected to grow only as it pertains to enrollment increases and no restoration of the austerity cuts implemented at the state level is expected, CSD officials said.
The new positions accounted for in the budget are due to a projected increase of 384 students.