Gwinnett County Public Schools employees will likely see more money in their paychecks during the 2019-20 school year, but not everyone will get the additional pay for the same reason.
There are three ways that pay increases are expected to be doled out during fiscal year 2020. The first is an expected flat increase in the state’s teacher salary schedule, which covers teachers, media specialists, counselors and local school technology coordinators. State lawmakers are expected to put the raise, which will be for all teachers in the state, in Georgia’s upcoming budget.
Another way is a planned locally funded step increase for all Gwinnett school employees who are on the teacher salary schedule.
The third way is a 2 percent cost-of-living salary increase for employees who are not on the teacher salary schedule, including janitors, administrators and bus drivers.
“We’ll be seeing growth in both our state revenues and our local revenues that will enable us to pass along well-deserved salary increases to our teachers as well as the rest of the employees in the district,” GCPS Chief Financial Officer Joe Heffron said. “It will also fund some needed program enhancements and improvements.”
The pay increases are a big part of GCPS’ proposed $2.31 billion fiscal year 2020 budget. The proposed budget was presented to the board for review Saturday, and tentative adoption is set for April 9, when the board holds its second budget work session at Central Gwinnett High School.
The fiscal year 2020 budget, if adopted by the school board, will be 2.7 percent larger than the current year’s budget. Two public hearings are currently scheduled for May 9 and 16, with final adoption of the budget expected to happen at the May 16 hearing.
The version of the budget that the school board will vote on next month is expected to be adjusted to accommodate whatever teacher salary schedule increase state legislators settle on in the state budget.
Waiting for the state’s teacher pay increase to be settled
State legislators are expected to give a pay raise to every employee on the teachers salary schedule when they adopt the state’s 2020 budget this spring.
It just remains to be seen how much that will be.
The current number is slated to be a $3,000 increase per employee. That’s the number Gwinnett schools officials are working with right now, although Heffron said that could change depending on what the General Assembly eventually settles on.
If legislators stick with the $3,000 salary increase, that would amount — in Gwinnett — to a $41.4 million increase in state funding for the teacher salary schedule.
Under that proposed schedule, the starting yearly pay for a new teacher who holds a bachelor’s degree will be $46,646. A teacher with at least 28 years of experience and a doctorate would make $99,500.
Local salary step and cost-of-living increases
Heffron said about 95 percent of employees on the teachers salary schedule are eligible for a step increase. The other 5 percent of people on the salary schedule are already at the top step, he said.
That means they are eligible for an increase in their salary based on the number of years they have worked for the district, their degree level and their performance evaluation rating. The step increase will be in addition to the $3,000 pay increase from the state.
The step increases for teachers are expected to cost the district $13.7 million.
Since the teacher salary schedule does not cover all district employees, the school system also plans to offer the 2 percent cost-of-living increase for employees on other salary schedules.
That is expected to cost the district $7 million.
“Normally, in past years, we’ve just said employees are getting a 2 percent raise and that was everybody getting a 2 percent raise,” Heffron said. “Because the state is funding the teacher increase a little differently, rather than funding a percentage they are giving a flat amount throughout the scale, we’re handling our schedules a little differently this year.”
More teachers, staff and data security
The budget proposal shows other areas that the district expected to spend money during the upcoming school year, too.
GCPS is expecting to spend $8.1 million to create about 105 new teaching positions to accommodate the opening of the McClure Health Science High School as well as growth in the district’s student population this fall. District officials expect the school system’s student population will increase by 446 next year.
That would take the district’s total student population to 180,204 pupils.
The district is also including $6 million for improvements such as six new school resources officers, five additional school psychologists, five behavior specialists, an instructional coach for the fine arts program and a teacher for a new Korean-English dual language immersion program that will begin at Parsons Elementary School in the fall.
About $2 million of that $6 million pot will be used for information management and information technology security to protect private data concerning students and district employees from data breaches.
Millage rate expected
to stay the same
The school system is expected to keep its millage rate at 19.8 mills, but the county’s property tax digest is expected to increase by 3 percent. As a result of the digest increase, keeping the millage rate at the same level means at least some property owners will see higher tax bills.
The increase is expected to generate an increase of about $21.4 million in additional tax revenues.
Keeping the same millage rate while the tax digest increases means three public hearings will have to be held on the millage rate this summer. The dates for those hearings have not yet been set.
“We will wait until we get more information from the tax assessors office, which we will be meeting with them in the next month or so, so they can help us finalize the numbers that we will be required to advertise as part of the millage rate adoption process,” Heffron said.