When does budget planning begin for the next school year?
Budget planning is throughout the year. Budget discussions begin in the fall and public budget hearings are presented as needed at board meetings and public work sessions beginning in January.
How is the budget information communicated to the public?
Budget information is communicated to the public through various sources including public budget hearings, work sessions, and meetings that are recorded (https://www.csdecatur.net/Page/3765), the district’s website that has a budget link to the latest presentation and allows stakeholders to leave comments and suggestions (https://www.csdecatur.net/finance), and millage rate hearings traditionally occur in June. Once the board approves the tentative budget, a copy of the tentative budget is also advertised in the local Champion newspaper and is posted on the Finance Department’s website.
How does CSD ensure that generally accepted accounting principles are followed?
CSD undergoes an annual Financial Audit by the independent auditing firm, Mauldin and Jenkins. We recently received an exemplary report with no findings, as we typically do each year.
Why was the millage rate higher in early versions of the budget?
Early versions are very conservative since many tax revenue and funding amounts are still to be determined, including state funding to be determined by our legislature and property taxes to be collected. Until we receive firm numbers we must take a conservative approach to planning, and worst-case scenarios are considered. As we progress through the spring planning process, the numbers typically improve as we learn more. We use this iterative process to help guide our budget priorities.
What is the proposed millage rate for FY22?
21.00 which is a 0.75 increase from the current fiscal year 2021 millage rate of 20.25
Why is the millage rate increasing?
There are a variety of factors that have contributed to the decision to increase the millage rate to 21.00. One of the major factors include reduction in QBE funding from the state (approximately $1.3 million in current fiscal year (2021) and $1.3 million in next fiscal year (2022) which equates to over $2.6 million in lost revenue. Funds were also expended from the General fund for COVID related expenditures. If the district was fully reinstated for QBE cuts ($2.6 million), the ending fund balance percentage would be over 4% and the millage rate would not need to be increased.
Is there any possibility that the millage rate will NOT increase?
Yes. The proposed 21.00 millage rate is tentative. The district traditionally receives the tax digest in May. If the tax digest shows a higher projection in revenue than what was anticipated by the district, the millage rate will be adjusted accordingly. The board's final adoption of the tax millage rate is in July.
Is there any possibility the millage rate will increase beyond the proposed 21.00?
The district does not anticipate the millage rate increasing beyond the proposed 21.00.
As a property owner in the City of Decatur, what financial impact will this proposed increase in millage rate have on me?
The proposed increase in the millage rate is 0.75.
An example of the impact of a 21.00 millage rate on property with a market value of $600,000 as detailed below would be an annual increase in school property tax of $225 before any homestead exemptions.
Current FY2021 Millage Rate
Proposed FY2022 Millage Rate
Preliminary millage rate:
Assessed Value (50% of Market Value)
Multiply millage rate
School taxes per year (Before exemptions)
Why does the fund balance have a minimum requirement of 4%?
The fund balance is equivalent to the district’s reserve and allows the district to cover unexpected expenses such as the ones associated with the current pandemic. It is imperative that the district maintains a fund balance percentage to cover emergencies. A minimum fund balance of 4% is also local CSD Board policy and demonstrates fiscally responsible budgeting.
When will the board adopt the final millage rate?
June 22, 2021, at a special board meeting.
Where does CSD spend most of its budget?
86% of the general fund budget is spent on salaries and related compensation, and only 14% is spent on operations. Therefore, the majority of the district’s budget is fixed.
How has CSD continued to invest in paying our teachers and staff competitively?
For the 2020-21 school year, the Board of Education approved pay increases through COLA and STEP increases despite the budget cut from the State. The Board also followed through on paying our teachers a $2,000 bonus that had earlier been promised by the state and later retracted. This past year, we also made significant adjustments to the salaries of our lowest paid staff by increasing their salaries from 15%-20% on average to pay them a more fair and livable salary. A step increase for all employees is also included in the FY 2022 tentative budget.
What should be the target fund balance percentage?
State law mandates that the fund balance percentage does not exceed 15%. Money that is collected in taxes is intended to be used, not saved, other than a small balance for contingencies. School Board policy specifies a minimum fund balance of 4% to ensure contingencies for emergencies.
Why is our fund balance lower than in past years?
Although state revenue was reduced by approximately $1.3 million this fiscal year, the district continued with the plan to give employees salary increases, bonuses to teachers, and upgrades to the lowest paying positions. CSD also increased staffing for fiscal year 2021. The district spent over $4 million in COVID-related expenditures and did not lay off any employees during this time even when schools were closed. All of these factors have contributed to a lower fund balance.
How much did CSD spend on pandemic preparedness and related expenses?
Over the course of this year, we had to spend over $4 million in COVID-related expenses. In October 2020 (http://bit.ly/CSD-BOE-Oct-13-COVID), an initial budget adjustment used unspent balance to cover COVID related expenses such as learning pods ($75,000), school nutrition program loses ($634,702), early childhood program loses ($290,348), reduced earnings on investments ($78,118), and COVID-related supplies and equipment ($1,288,000). In January 2021 (http://bit.ly/CSD-BOE-Jan-12-COVID), a second budget adjustment used unspent balance to cover additional COVID-related expenses, including budgeting for 16 additional teachers ($620,639), learning pods ($108,000), and overtime costs for nurses ($19,800). A third budget adjustment in February 2021 (http://bit.ly/CSD-BOE-Feb-9-COVID) accounted for learning pods ($322,950), additional school health aides ($66,024), and COVID testing ($50,000).
What are ongoing expenses related to the ongoing impact of the pandemic?
The effects of the pandemic will continue to impact district finances in the coming years. The budget currently being discussed includes extensive remediation efforts as well as the addition of a Decatur Virtual Academy. The remediation efforts include the addition of 12 additional school-based intervention teachers and one district remediation specialist. The additional programs will include more targeted interventions during the school day, a K-12 summer program, an additional high school summer session in July, additional extended school day, and intensive sessions during breaks. Altogether, this additional staffing and programming are expected to cost an additional $1,536,620 next year. The fiscal year 2021 reduction in QBE funding of $1.3 million is expected to remain for fiscal year 2022.
How much did CSD receive in Cares Act funding?
The federal government passed several stimulus packages which resulted in total additional funding of approximately $4.7 million. Approximately $1.2 million of the CARES funds are restricted to specific purchases.
How much did the Senior Tax Exemption impact the Budget last year and how much was over the original anticipated cost? The estimated cost of the homestead exemption for 2020 was originally expected to be approximately $1.2 million; however, the actual amount was closer to $5.7 million. Over the past few years, a careful study of the impact of the senior tax exemption was performed by Georgia State University at the direction of the Board, and this past year a committee of community members worked together with the Board to propose two new senior tax exemptions to replace the current sunsetting senior tax exemption. These two new tax exemptions are expected to keep to our original budget while focusing tax relief on the most vulnerable seniors.
What do the two new proposed Senior Tax Exemptions look like?
Qualifying seniors are either partially or fully exempt from paying property taxes. The School Board committed to studying the cost of the Senior Tax Exemption which will sunset at the end of 2021 after five years. In its place, the School Board has proposed two carefully studied exemptions that will control the cost to taxpayers while focusing the tax exemption on the most vulnerable seniors.
- Tax relief will be provided to seniors by providing an exemption of $200,000 of assessed home value (400,000 of appraised value) for seniors aged 65-69, if their combined household income does not exceed $53,000 (80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) for the Atlanta area).
- Seniors aged 70 and above will receive the same exemption on $200,000 of assessed home value ($400,000 of appraised value) but without an income cap.
These proposed exemptions were approved by the legislature to include a two-year sunset. Assuming the Governor signs the exemptions they will appear on the ballot Nov. 2021 for the community to vote on.
How have the costs at the Wilson Center for Student Support (aka Central Office) been managed in relation to the growth of the district?
Click this link for information regarding the Wilson Center https://www.csdecatur.net/domain/136.