No Tax Increase or Layoffs in Proposed Oconee Schools' Budget

But there are two furlough days included in the $54.1 million fiscal year 2014 budget proposal.

Teachers and staff are keeping their jobs and the millage rate will remain unchanged in fiscal year 2014 if the Oconee County Board of Education adopts the tentative budget as presented during a work session Monday.

The $54.1 million budget, however, does contain two furlough days.  The unpaid time off should come as little surprise; the days were included in the 2013-14 school year calendar, which was approved in December.  The furloughs on Nov. 25 and Jan. 2 extend the Thanksgiving and winter breaks.

"This is a very serious budget," Assistant Superintendent of Financial Operations Randy Morrison told the board. "It is one of the harder budgets that we've had to put together.  I think it's a fair budget.  I believe it continues to meet the service needs of the Oconee County school system by providing the most important service - and that is to the students everyday, day in and day out.  And we see that from the choices that we've put in here."

Flat tax digest anticipated

The local tax digest is projected to keep the same overall value from this tax year going into next, Morrison said.  Officials don't anticipate seeing changes in the digest resulting from developments of the new Caterpillar plant and the Epps Bridge Centre until the following year, he noted.

The millage rate in fiscal year 2013 was raised by one mil to 17.5 mils for maintenance and operations, and the school bonds rate was 1 mil. Both are estimated to stay the same for a total of 18.5 mils, Morrison said.

Those local dollars make up 54.5 percent of the total $60.3 million in revenue, leaving the state to fund 45.5 percent, he explained.  He added that since 2009, the state portion of revenue has decreased about 9 percent.

"We continue to provide a high quality education as evidenced by the test scores and information that you've heard about tonight and that have been out there and because of the teachers doing their jobs every day in the classrooms," Morrison remarked. "We have, over the years, been consistently receiving fewer and fewer dollars from the state in order to make our students what they are today. As a result, the local taxpayer has picked up the difference."

Summary of key points

  • The reserve fund balance-- money that will carry over from FY14 into FY15 to pay for operating costs in July to October -- is estimated at $6.2 million.
  • The school district has had to make adjustments for $1.4 million in state-mandated increases like health care, teacher retirement funds and automatic pay raises.
  • Personnel costs account for over 90 percent of the budget.
  • Operational portions of the budget target over 69 percent of available funds on direct classroom expenses such as teachers, parapros and materials.
  • $250,000 was saved through realignment of duties and responsibilites and attrition in the central office.
  • Projected enrollment is 6,727. Expenditure per student is $8,045.
  • There have been no textbook adoptions since 2008.
  • $20,000 is earmarked in the FY14 budget for the libraries in Oconee County, the same amount as in last year's budget.  Earlier this year, Library Board members had requested an increase of eight percent, or $2,500.

The school board is scheduled to adopt the tentative budget at its meeting next Monday.  It will then be advertised and reviewed at the work session on June 3 before the final budget's adoption, planned for June 10. Millage rates will be adopted later in the summer once the tax digest is updated.

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