School board tentatively adopts proposed budget

NORCROSS - The Gwinnett County Board of Education on Tuesday tentatively adopted Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks' proposed budget for the 2007-08 school year.

Board member Mary Kay Murphy made the motion to tentatively adopt the $1.7 budget during a work session held at Meadowcreek High School. The motion was passed without discussion.

Murphy said the motion was made with the understanding that public hearings will be held at 7 p.m. May 3 and during the board's regular meeting May 10 before the budget is adopted. The maintenance and operations and debt service millage rates to support the budget are scheduled to be set June 11, but Wilbanks has proposed for the millage rate to stay at its current rate of 20.55.

Both public hearings will take place at the school district's Instructional Support Center, 437 Old Peachtree Road NW, Suwanee.

With enrollment expected to increase by more than 7,200 students, the budget calls for the hiring of more than 800 staff members, including 531 teachers.

The budget also calls for a minimum 3 percent raise for all Gwinnett County Public Schools employees. The state is expected to provide $17.6 million for the raises, and the school district will have to pay $20.7 million to provide the same raises for all employees, Wilbanks said.

Transportation costs are also increasing, as more buses, drivers and fuel will be needed to accommodate the system's growth. The state is expected to pay $7.1 million, and the school district would have to pay the remainder of the $74.5 million proposed cost.

The budget as proposed would also fund start-up costs for Lovin, Mulberry and Patrick elementary schools and the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science and Technology; improve benchmark assessment and advisement programs for middle schools; increase the allotment for the number of special education teachers; add two buses per cluster for student field trips and extracurricular activities; and provide materials for state-mandated middle and high school graduation coaches.

Details about the budget are available on the district's Web site, www.gwinnett.k12.ga.us.