Planning Helped GCPS Balance Budget
Holding off on some spending enabled schools to close a gap of more than $100 million.
Gwinnett County schools' "rolling budget" planning process helped it find some $31 million to help close a revenue shortfall of more than $100 million for the 2012 fiscal year.
Rick Cost, the school system's chief financial officer, said Wednesday at the Suwanee headquarters that they do budget planning on a three- to five-year basis, and so they knew last year they still would be facing a revenue decline for the 2012 fiscal year.
A one-time federal education job grant in FY 2011 of $30.8 million enabled Gwinnett to set aside the equivalent amount for 2012.
The system announced this week that it has reached a tentative budget of $1.7 billion for FY 2012. That is $111.2 million (6.1 percent) less than FY 2011.
Gwinnett schools have been facing revenue declines since FY 2009, but the state's largest school system keeps adding students. Superintendent Alvin Wilbanks estimates that $97 million in cumulative property tax revenue ($43 million for FY 2012) has been lost since then, due to the declining Gwinnett County tax digest.
However, the system expects to add about 1,700 students in FY 2012, to go with 3,500 in the two years previous. So officials try to look beyond the current fiscal year when making decisions.
It won't get any easier. The system expects to add about 1,200 students for FY 2013, although revenue is again expected to decline.
"The decisions on FY 2012 were made prior to this year," Cost said. "We've got to think past the current year and not start from scratch."
Officials also helped balance the budget by eliminating all cost of living raises and implementing two furlough days (one less than FY 2011). Teachers will have 188 work days in FY 2012.
The Gwinnett school board will have budget work days on April 16 and 19. Public hearings will be held on May 12 and 19, at which budget adoption is expected.
A budget overview can be found on the school system's website.
Other highlights from the proposed budget:
-- Teacher-student ratio will increase to 16:1, up from 15:1.
-- The system saved $47.8 million by revising its point- allocation formula. Each Gwinnett school is awarded so many points, based on enrollment, type of school (special education), etc. The principal of that school then has discretionary spending power of point money awarded to that particular school. "Resources follow the student," Cost said.
-- The system plans to have 9,882 teacher positions in FY 2012, down from 10,384. There will be no layoffs, but some attrition through retirement and job change is expected.
-- The system will open one new school (Moore MS in the Central Gwinnett cluster), a lower total than recent years. Cost explained that the system "front-loaded' building projects in previous years.
-- State funding cuts for Gwinnett schools under the Quality Basic Education formula have amounted to $517 million since 2003, Wilbanks said. Also, Gwinnett will lose $12.4 million of ARRA (stimulus) funds in FY 2012 that previously were made to partially offset state revenue custs.