Dalton Public Schools’ fiscal year 2023 budget includes general fund expenditures of nearly $90 million with revenues of nearly $86 million.
That means ending fiscal year 2023, which ends June 30, 2023, with a general fund balance of roughly $20.5 million, said Theresa Perry, chief financial officer. The general fund’s balance at the end of fiscal year 2022 is estimated to be $24.7 million.
The school board seeks “to stay north of $16.5 million” with the general fund, according to Matt Evans, chairman of the Dalton Board of Education. “That’s generally where we want to be.”
Members of the Dalton Board of Education approved the budget 4-0 — board member Tulley Johnson was absent — Monday. The board is scheduled to adopt a final property tax rate in August.
The fiscal year 2023 budget includes improvements to the salary scale of $2 million, Perry said. The average salary scale improvement for teachers will be 3.5%, with a minimum increase of 2.4% — “the lower your pay, the better increase percentage” — and the school system is “replicating a similar percentage increase to the pay scales for support staff and employees.”
Dalton Public Schools is adding 21 positions, from paraprofessionals to teachers to administrators, she said. That includes five Exceptional Student Services (ESS) paraprofessionals, four English Language Learners teachers and three ESS teachers.
Perry assumes a 2% growth in the digest and no change in the millage rate, she said. School board members approved an operating property tax rate last year of 8.095 mills, which was the first reduction in 13 years, as the rate had been 8.2 mills for the prior seven years.
Dalton Public Schools will receive $1.1 million less in equalization funding from the state for fiscal year 2023 than it did for fiscal year 2022, said Perry. However, the $4.5 million in equalization funding from the state for fiscal year 2023 will still be “the second-highest equalization amount in our history.”
Equalization funding ranks school systems by property wealth per number of students, then allots funds to school systems that have less property wealth per student than the state average, according to Perry: “Equalization is wealth per child, and wealth is measured in property value.”
The total budget for capital projects for fiscal year 2023 is $11.8 million, $6.7 million of which is earmarked for renovations at Dalton High School, which is roughly a half-century-old building. The improvements at Dalton High will be paid for with a combination of money from the general fund and ESPLOST (Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) funds.
A SPLOST is a 1% sales tax on most goods sold in a county. School systems typically use their version to finance capital improvements — like renovating schools and building new ones — technology, safety and security improvements, and buses, but not operating expenses.
Perry expects the school system will need to absorb $3.5 million into the fiscal year 2024 budget that’s currently being paid for with federal dollars. Dalton Public Schools received approximately $2 million from the initial Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, $7 million from the second CARES Act and $17 million from the American Rescue Plan.
All funds must be exhausted by fiscal year 2024, and “we’re going to spend all the money,” Perry said. “(We’ll leave) zero dollars on the table.”