BOE approves $1.7 billion budget for 2007-08

SUWANEE - Gwinnett County Public Schools will operate under a $1.7 billion budget during the 2007-08 school year.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education passed the budget Thursday night after a final public hearing at the start of its monthly business meeting. No one spoke during public hearing.

The general fund and the capital projects fund make up the bulk of the budget, which has increased $232 million from this school year.

The capital projects fund has grown by nearly 130 percent based on the passage of a voter-approved 1-percent education sales tax that will fund the construction of 27 new schools. Voters also chose to allow the school system to take out bonds to begin construction on some schools immediately.

The general fund, which is made up of local taxes and state and federal dollars, has grown by 6 percent. Most of the fund is spent on instructional services. Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said the 76.2 percent of the fund earmarked for instruction is the highest the system has ever spent in this category.

The general fund also pays for employees' salaries and benefits. Each school system employee will receive at least a 3 percent cost-of-living raise; some employees may receive more based on yearly salary increases.

Although the budget does not call for an increase in the millage rate, some homeowners may see an increase in property taxes. About

a third of Gwinnett's

homes are reappraised every year.

Wilbanks is proposing the millage rate stay at the current rate of 20.55. The board will hold three public hearings in June on the millage rate before it is passed.

In other business, the board passed a revised version of the student conduct behavior code. A task force reviewed the code because Wilbanks was concerned a disproportionate number of minority students are being taken before disciplinary panels each year.

The task force made recommendations that will ensure the discipline code is consistent and fair, Associate Superintendent Bobby Crowson said. The revision was not meant to manipulate numbers but to tighten up the code and eliminate any conception that race plays into the discipline code.

Board member Robert McClure said it's important to figure out how to discipline the students who misbehave while ensuring other students have an orderly classroom.