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Nearly $2B proposed for GCPS
Schools system budget includes salary increase for all employees

SUWANEE - Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks has proposed a $1.859 billion budget for the 2008-09 school year, a $96.8 million increase from the current year.

The proposal, released Tuesday, includes a salary increase of at least 2.5 percent for all school system employees, Chief Financial Officer Rick Cost said. Teachers' salaries will increase by an average of 3.9 percent, because they will receive staggered increases for experience as well as a cost-of-living raise.

The school district is adding 609 new positions - including 301 teachers - to support a student body that is expected to grow this August by more than 4,000 students to 159,661 pupils.

The budget also includes funding to purchase instructional materials for the growing student population, funding to help schools pay assistant principals to work a few extra days to help with the textbook and property inventory, and start-up costs for three new elementary schools.

The school district will also finish the implementation of a benchmark assessment and advisement program, which is already running in all middle schools and some elementary and high schools, Cost said.

The largest portion of the budget, the general fund, is increasing by $42 million to $1.302 billion. Cost said $986 million - or 75.8 percent - of that fund will be devoted to instruction. That allocation will be at its highest level in the past six years.

The school district plans to keep the millage rate at its current level of 20.55 mills for the fourth consecutive year.

"In spite of a tight budget, these recommended improvements will continue our focus on teaching and learning and our commitment to provide every child a quality and effective education," Wilbanks said Tuesday evening.

A copy of the proposed budget is available on the school district's Web site, www.gwinnett.k12.ga.us .