School board adopts tentative budget

NORCROSS -- In a unanimous vote, the local school board gave thumbs up Tuesday evening to a Fiscal Year 2014 budget which includes the elimination of all furlough days and the addition of 18 school resource officers.

The measure, which was a tentative approval of the Gwinnett County Public Schools FY 2014 budget, calls for $1.7 billion in total.

The number includes $1.2 billion earmarked for the general fund or the operations budget. The projection for the general fund is an increase of $29.7 million over the current year.

The projected FY 2014 budget included recommended improvements like elimination of all furlough days, which will cost $8.6 million and the addition of 18 additional school resource officers -- one for every cluster -- at $1.7 million.

School Board Member Louise Radloff said she felt the improvements would be seen as a positive by the community.

"The fact that we're doing away with furloughs and increasing SROs is something the public very clearly wants us to do," Radloff said.

Chief Financial Officer Rick Cost told the school board that austerity cuts at the state level "for the first time in many years were a decrease" of $83 million.

Measures recommended by the superintendent to balance the projected budget included continuation of the hiring freeze; no restoration of 54 central office positions eliminated in FY 2013; continuation of district-level operating budget cuts from the past four years; and class size ratios for teacher "point" allotments will remain the same for the 2013-14 school year.

Following the vote Tuesday night, School Board Member Robert McClure took a moment to "thank all the employees doing more with less."

Two public hearings must be held before the board makes a formal adoption of the FY 2014 budget.

They are scheduled for 7 p.m. May 9 at the Instructional Support Center; and 6 p.m. May 16 at the Instructional Support Center. Following the May 16 meeting the board of education may adopt a tentative millage rate.

It is still unclear whether the board will seek a millage increase. It's been eight years since the district has approved an increase.