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Few arrive for first GCPS budget public hearing

SUWANEE -- A group of nurses who work for Gwinnett County Public Schools were among less than a dozen people in attendance during a public hearing Thursday to discuss the district's proposed $1.7 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2014.

Following the meeting, nurse Colleen Smith spoke to The Post on the group's behalf. Smith said she showed up in order to find out if there would be an allotment in the budget to give nurses like her -- who are classified as temporary/miscellaneous employees -- medical benefits.

Smith said as it stands, nurses such as herself and about 30 others work 30 to 40 hours a week without benefits to assist students who need special medical attention.

The group was there to listen, but did not address the board of education during Thursday's budget public hearing.

At a projected $1.7 billion, the FY2014 budget is a decrease of nearly $13 million over the current year's budget. The total budget accounts for special revenue, capital projects, debt service, enterprise and internal service funds.

Within the total budget is also $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 includes "recommended improvements" as well.

Recommendations include the 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.

Measures recommended by the superintendent to balance the projected FY 2014 budget include the continuation of a district-level hiring freeze; no restoration of the 54 central office positions eliminated during FY 2013; continuation of the district-level operating budget cuts from the past four years; carryover expenditures included in the FY 2013 mid-term budget; and class size ratios for teacher "point" allotments will remain the same for the 2013-14 school year.

In order to balance the enterprise fund, which reflects GCPS school nutrition program, the superintendent is recommending a 25-cent increase in meal prices next year. New lunch prices will be $2.25 for elementary and $2.50 for middle and high school.

A second public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 16 at the Instructional Support Center, 437 Old Peachtree Road NW, Suwanee. Final budget adoption with a tentative millage rate adoption is scheduled for 7 p.m. the same day.