SNELLVILLE — During his 17 years as superintendent with Gwinnett County Public Schools, J. Alvin Wilbanks has seen the district through some tough times.
“Our biggest challenge over the years remains the financials,” Wilbanks said Tuesday evening. “The Fiscal Year 2013 budget is the most difficult I’ve ever seen.”
He addressed a packed house at South Gwinnett High School during an area board meeting, an event Wilbanks and other education officials used as an opportunity to talk with the public about the state of the school district.
Among topics was the projected $1.7 billion Fiscal Year 2013 budget, a number that the Gwinnett County Public Schools board of education could approve in April.
Officials with Gwinnett County Public Schools plan to stay the course for the most part while working with the projected FY 2013 budget, with $1.2 billion earmarked for general operations.
Representing a $5.8 million decrease from the previous year, the projections anticipate no layoffs, maintaining a hiring freeze and the continuation of two furlough days a year. FY 2013 predictions also assume the continued trend of slower enrollment growth.
Earlier in March, the board of education discussed a projected $89 million shortfall stemming from a combination of declining local tax revenue and diminished federal stimulus dollars.
Projected property tax revenue losses for FY 2013 are estimated to be about $36 million, according to Rick Cost, chief financial officer.
Over the past four years, Cost said, the district “has lost almost a quarter of our local digest revenue,” or $133 million.
To address the $89 million budget shortfall for FY 2013, officials with the district plan to leave vacant the positions of those who retire or leave their jobs through attrition — an estimated 585 positions. The central office is projected to lose about 54 positions through attrition. A continued hiring freeze is also in effect.
Through leaving positions vacant and continuing its hiring freeze, the district anticipates a savings of about $45 million.
Operating expenses —excluding fuel, utilities, school allotments and instructional materials — will be cut across the board by 2.5 percent for a savings of $1.6 million.
A reduction in employer contributions to the Gwinnett Retirement System will result in about $19 million in savings, Cost said.
The district is also set to receive about $21 million from the state in additional funding.
No millage increase is anticipated from Gwinnett County Public Schools.
The GCPS board of education could vote on the FY 2013 budget in April.