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Newton BOE approves FY 2015 budget with teacher raises, more parapro hours

COVINGTON — In addition to teacher pay raises and eliminating one furlough day, the Newton County School Board also allotted one more hour to elementary paraprofessionals’ work days in the fiscal year 2015 budget that was approved Tuesday.

Increasing the elementary parapros workday from six to seven hours added $200,000 to next year’s budget, which is set to take effect July 1.

“The budget was approved using an estimated tax digest of $1.904 billion and a millage rate of 20 mills,” said Newton County School System Business Manager Peggy Bullard, who added that the final tax digest numbers should be released by the Newton County tax commissioner the week of June 23.

Total revenue for the 2014-15 budget is projected to be $144,512,361, which represents a 5.66 percent increase over last year’s budget. Bullard said this increase is due primarily to the local district receiving more money from the state.

The beginning fund balance is $18,838,219, and with an increase in expenditures of just over 3 percent, the ending fund balance is projected to be $18,110,467. Bullard pointed out in a memo to the BOE that this figure represents 12.47 percent of the budget, which exceeds the recommended fund balance of 7 percent.

Increased spending — expenditures this next year are budgeted at $145,240,113 — is due primarily to a 2 percent salary increase for teachers, step increases for eligible employees and restoring another work day for school employees.

From the outset of the budget process, increasing teacher pay was a priority. During two work sessions in May, board members discussed different options, and settled on the option that gave them a little higher increase in pay while restoring one of four furlough days.

During the first work session, Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey said she had heard from some teachers and paraprofessionals that it would be helpful to increase parapros’ hours of work. Not only would this give teachers a little more help during the day, but it would be a slight boost to the parapros’ paychecks, she said.

The 2014-15 budget was approved unanimously.