Public invited to speak at school budget hearings

SUWANEE - The Gwinnett County Board of Education will hold two public hearings this week on the district's proposed $1.9 billion budget for the 2008-09 school year.

Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks and members of his staff will present an overview of the budget during the first hearing, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday. School board members will then take comments and questions from the public.

The second hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in conjunction with the board's monthly business meeting. School board members are expected to adopt the budget during that meeting.

The total budget, if approved, is increasing by nearly $97 million because the district's population is expected to grow by more than 4,000 students. The school system will also receive a slight increase in the amount of money it receives from the state.

The general fund, which pays for instructional services and maintenance and operations, is projected to be $1.3 billion, an increase of $42 million from the current year.

About $11 million of the general fund will be used for improvements such as implementation of an assessment program that will measure student progress, purchasing additional textbooks to support the growing student population and opening an additional maintenance district to support schools in northeast Gwinnett.

In line with Gov. Sonny Perdue's state budget recommendations, the district included about $34.3 million in local dollars to ensure all employees receive at least a 2.5 percent salary increase.

The capital projects fund is expected to increase by nearly $42 million to $321 million. This money, which is generated from a 1 percent education sales tax, will be used to complete the construction of 10 new schools.

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

SideBar: If you go

· What: Public hearings on Gwinnett County Public Schools' proposed $1.9 billion budget for the 2008-09 school year

· When: 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday

· Where: Instructional Support Center, 437 Old Peachtree Road N.W., Suwanee

· Note: Those who would like to address the school board can sign up to speak Tuesday and Thursday before the meetings begin.