Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria J. Carstarphen presented the tentative Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) General Fund Budget to the Atlanta Board of Education during its March 2, 2015 work session. The $683 million budget is to cover operating costs for the 2015-2016 school year.
The tentative budget sets the course for Atlanta Public Schools to improve quality and increase efficiency with the system operating in the proper capacity and at the right size for years to come.
The general budget of $682.8 million is approximately a $25 million increase over fiscal year’s 2015 budget of $657.6 million. The growth in revenue is attributed to anticipated increases in state funding as well as local property taxes. The $25 million increase in revenue is offset by approximately $31 million in required expenditures going into Fiscal Year 2016:
- $21 million to meet expected enrollment increases in APS charter schools that were previously authorized to phase in additional grades on an annual basis. The charter school budget will increase from $71M to $92M.
- $5 million to properly service special education students. The Special Education budget will increase from $43.2M to $48M.
- $3.7 million to address increased employer contribution rates in the Teacher Retirement System contribution.
- $1.4 million for an increase in pension funding associated with the adoption of a pension funding plan.
As these items are non-negotiable for the district, APS is seeking to right size in other areas. They include reduction in central administration overhead that involves cuts in Central Office positions by nearly 10 percent for a savings of approximately $5 million. Additionally, APS is proposing a significant change in the method used to allocate staff at schools. Currently, the district assigns staffing for core, specialty and special education teachers at each school. For FY16, the proposed method would give each school a general allotment of teachers and another one for special education teachers. This allows each school discretion in how it assigns its core and specialty teachers. This new method will right size the teaching staff without impacting instruction and yield about $8.77 million in reductions.
This approach in the FY16 budget also gives each school flexible dollars for them to tailor more staffing and programs that address unique needs and demands of their students. Additionally, this school-level decision making and discretion align with the goal of the proposed Charter System operating model for the district.
In preparation for the implementation of the Charter System operating model, APS has defined a multi-year budget strategy that features:
- Evaluating all funding requests for alignment to the district’s mission and vision;
- Identifying the resources required to support enrollment trends and to implement strategic priorities, initiatives and budget parameters;
- Reducing general administration and central administration costs to redirect resources to support strategic priorities including initial efforts to right-size the district;
- Accelerate full funding of pension benefits.
In submitting the tentative budget, Superintendent Carstarphen promised effective communication through two-way, transparent communications throughout the budget adoption process.
“I believe it is important to provide APS stakeholders with a better understanding of how we fund schools, departments and services with their tax dollars,” Dr. Carstarphen said. “I have a responsibility to ensure that all resources – local, state, federal and private dollars – are used to their fullest potential. We pledge to deliver a high-quality education that is supported by a responsible, transparent and efficient budget process.”
APS will continue the budget process through April, which will include addressing a number of unfunded priorities. The school board will consider options such as millage rate changes, the district’s fund balance, other financial resources due to APS, and new creative solutions.
As part of the process, APS will hold two additional Budget Commission meetings to continue evaluation of the FY16 General Fund and Special Revenue budgets as well as community budget conversations to gather public comments.
Budget Commission Meetings will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Thursdays, March 19 and April 2 in the Benjamin E. Mays Conference Room, at the Center for Learning and Leadership, 130 Trinity Street, S.W., Atlanta 30303.
There will be four community conversations held across the district:
- March 11 – Young Middle School
- March 18 – Springdale Park Elementary School
- March 25 – South Atlanta High
- April 1 – Garden Hills Elementary School.
These meetings will start at 6 p.m.
The school board will consider adoption of the final FY16 General Fund Budget April 13.