MONROE — The budget is going up but the millage rate is going down for the Walton County School District as the county Board of Education got its first look at its proposed 2019-20 system budget.
The budget is going up by nearly $7 million, rising to $131.2 million from last year’s budget of $124.6 million.
Much of that increase lies in salaries, due in large part to the promise by Gov. Brian Kemp to increase individual teacher salaries by $3,000.
The county board kept to that promise for certified employees, as well as instituting a 2% raise for classified staff and a step increase for employees.
The board also had to cover a state-mandated increase in the employer’s portion of the Teacher Retirement System and include seven new employee positions to accommodate student growth and support needs.
“We are grateful for the opportunity to implement raises and salary step increases for our employees in this year’s budget while once again reducing the millage rate for our taxpayers,” Walton County School District Superintendent Nathan Franklin said.
“In partnership with our board, we strive to remain fiscally sound while providing exceptional educational opportunities to support our students and community.”
Ninety percent of the budget is spent on employee salaries and benefits, leaving only 10% to cover all other operational costs.
The new budget also had to accommodate a $1.3 million increase in software needs after the state changed rules around the budget item which no longer allow the school system to pay for the services with funds from the Education Local Option Sales tax.
The budget also pulls $748,000 from the fund balance to cover expenditures not matched by incoming revenues in the next year.
Despite that, the board elected to lower the millage rate, dropping it to 20.9 from 21.2. That number remains above the rollback rate, however, meaning the system will still receive more in tax revenue than last year despite the lower millage rate.
The board will vote on the preliminary budget next week at its regular monthly board meeting and leave it on the table for 30 days, with plans to approve the final budget in August.
In other board news, the board considered changes to its policy on administering prescription drugs and other controlled substances. New changes would allow students with diabetes and other life-threatening conditions to self-administer insulin and other treatments. Students would still be restricted to Food and Drug Administration-approved medications, however, making essential oils and other alternative treatments off-limits.
The policy changes would also allow employees to administer the life-saving drug Narcan in the case of a opioid overdose.