While CFO Mike Addison warned that the budget numbers and assumptions were based on very premature projections about state and local revenue, he admitted, "this early projection does serve to highlight the fact that we are facing another very challenging year for the budget."
FY12 begins July 1.
Based on last year's numbers, Addison and his staff assumed that the property tax revenue will see a 7 percent decline, but said that was a "pure guess." Like last year, the budget will be set at 20 mills, Addison said, meaning that the board would again have to vote to use excess funds from SPLOST II to buy down the milliage rate to its current rate of 18.9 mills.
"We also assume that the budget will be built on a property tax rate of 20 mills," Addison said. "As you recall, we did the same thing for the FY11 budget, and the board then declared a SPLOST II excess in an amount sufficient to roll back the millage to an 18.9 rate, which has been the rate in effect for several years."
The budget assumes a decline of 5 percent to 7 percent in state revenue funds, and a loss of nearly $30 million in funds from the Federal Stabilization or Jobs Funds. The district plans to use $9.4 million of the money it reserved from the FY11 jobs funds to help balance the budget in FY12.
The district expects it will maintain its current staffing and again delay salary step increases for all eligible employees for a half year. The FY12 budget, which has to be approved by June 30, will include a 175-day school year again next year and five furlough days for all eligible employees.
Last year, the district faced an unprecedented budget shortfall of $126.7 million, and cut more than 1,000 teachers, 68 central office and supporting staffers, 55 school or graduation counselors, 112 custodial positions and 100 bus drivers. In June, the board approved an $819.4 million budget for FY11.
Despite the massive layoffs, the district eventually hired back many of the same positions it cut, causing anxiety and mistrust of the central office among teachers and the public.
Tim Stultz, who is new to the board and the budget process, said he hopes to avoid any substantial layoffs and rehiring like last year.
"We need to be able to try to get a good grasp on who will be leaving the system on their own," Stultz said.
Stultz also said he does not want to go the same route as the previous board did last year, using SPLOST II funds to buy down the millage rate. He said he expects that he and his colleagues will look at all possible ways to cut the district's costs.
"It's definitely another difficult budget," he said. "But I do not believe raising the millage and using the SPLOST money to buy it down is the way that we should be going."