ATLANTA — On Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal unveiled a state budget for FY 2015 that includes $807 million in new revenues. According the the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI), most of that money will be allocated to education.
The proposed education budget puts $314 million into partial restoration of K-12 education formula austerity cuts and adds another $170 million in K-12 and higher education formula growth. The FY15 education budget is $7,951,720,712 — $542 million more than the FY14 budget of $7,409,293,094.
“We are pleased with the Governor’s budget proposal. It is a step in the right direction for public education. The Governor had an open door policy with the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) and we were able to communicate the need for 180 days of instruction for Georgia’s students.” said GAE President Calvin Rollins. “The $547 million to local systems addresses the reduction in furloughs and the opportunity for raises. The funding for digital learning, technology, and the expansion of the HOPE scholarship as well as the creation of a scholarship to ensure that technical colleges expand their programs is a great step in moving public education forward.
“We are very encouraged.”
According to the GPBI, Deal’s budget proposal includes a down payment of about 30 percent to restore the $1.1 billion austerity cut in the state’s K-12 education funding formula. The governor proposes to spend the $314 million to reduce furloughs, increase instructional days or increase salaries.
This money should help the 80 percent of districts furloughing teachers and the 70 percent of districts that have cut the school calendar below 180 days return to the standard calendar. However, if districts use the money to return to a full year calendar, it is unlikely that many teachers will receive base salary increases.
Lee County School System Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Gary Kelley said he anticipated the reduction in austerity cuts will pump an estimated $1.2 million in additional funding into the district.
“I am hopeful we will be able to restore our furlough days (currently at three) with this money,” Kelley said. “I also hope that we can use the money to also cover the $150 per employee health insurance premium increase which will save us another $400,000.”
Dougherty County School System Director of Finance Ken Dyer would not name a specific number in regard to the DCSS’s anticipated allocation.
“I have no idea how much we will be getting and we really won’t know until the current legislative session is over,” Dyer said. “I’d really hate to to throw a number out there, but I think we’ll see an additional influx in excess of a million dollars. In addition, I am also hopeful that the state will absorb our increased healthcare insurance costs which will save us $1.4 million.”
Dyer said he was cautiously optimistic the governor’s budget numbers will stick.
“If the numbers we’ve seen in the early (legislative) session hold true, we’ll be in good shape,” Dyer said. “And with this being an election year, I think they will hold true.”
And like the LCSS, Dyer added he anticipated the extra money would be used to eliminate the DCSS’s furlough days which current stand at four.