Putting Students and Schools First:
Proposed Budget for the 2018-19 School Year
This time of year brings with it one of the best things about being superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, as well as one of the job’s most difficult tasks.
Right now, the air is filled with excitement and anticipation as graduation ceremonies and summer break are just a couple of weeks away. However, this is also the time of year that we must finalize the year- long process and hard work of crafting a budget for the next school year. This is all anchored in the Board-approved guidance and budget revenue and expenditure parameters developed at the beginning of the school year.
This FY2019 budget is built on the following parameters:
- The District will implement the expenditure parameters using the current millage rate or the Board’s Guiding Principles for Revenue Consideration to support the mission and vision.
- The District will continue to identify grant generating opportunities, assess the required millage rate, and/or seek additional business, philanthropic and community partnerships in an effort to support the ongoing transformation of APS.
- The District will maintain a fund balance between 7.5% and the statutory limit of 15% projected.
- The District will analyze and explore all funding sources including grants and special revenue to maximize resources and supplement the general fund.
- The District, with support and collaboration from other stakeholders, will continue to identify and encourage grant generating opportunities, especially through our Partnerships Office.
- The District will identify and sunset ineffective programs to redirect human resources and funding where possible.
- The District will allocate resources pursuant to the District’s definition of equity.
- The District will continue investing in the Turnaround Strategy, providing additional support and interventions for schools that have been chronically struggling on the state accountability metric (in support of the District’s mission that every student will graduate ready for college and career, and the vision of being a high-performing school District).
- The District will recruit, develop, retain, and promote high-quality staff by investing in a robust talent strategy that includes a multi-year compensation model, pipeline development work, professional development, and coaching and career pathways (in support of the Talent component in the District’s Strategic Plan).
- The District will continue implementing its charter system operating model and core components of signature programming, cluster and flexibility funds, investments in a College and Career Academy, and a community engagement strategy (in support of the District’s mission that every student will graduate ready for college and career, and the vision of engaged families).
- The District will fund pension obligations in accordance with State statute and actuarial standards.
- In support of the charter system model, the District will modify the current school allotment plan to increase transparency, equity, innovation, and autonomy with accountability so that Principals and local GoTeams can make decisions aligned with their specific needs with a focus on:
- Investments in Pre-K through 3rd grade to ensure all students are reading by the end of 3rd grade.
- Whole-child development, including positive behavior supports, arts and athletics. leadership development.
- Access to quality Early Childhood Education.
Seventy three (73) percent of our budget is derived from local tax revenue. It is incumbent upon us to be responsible stewards of those tax dollars as we remain committed to our mission of ensuring that every student graduates ready for college and career. In order for us to fulfill that mission, it is vital that we continue to focus on putting our students and our schools first in every decision we make.
On Monday, May 7th, the Atlanta Board of Education tentatively adopted our proposed General Fund Budget for the 2018-2019 school year. And, just as we have done in the past, we work with the Board in Budget Commission meetings and we involve the community in our budget process through the Budget and Finance Advisory Committee (BFAC), public hearings and regional community meetings throughout the nearly year-long process, culminating in May and early June.
Our last Budget Commission meeting is Thursday, May 17th from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the Mays Conference Room of our district office at 130 Trinity Avenue, S.W., Atlanta, GA 30303
Here is the schedule for Regional Community Meetings (all 6-7 p.m.):
- Grady High School (929 Charles Allen Drive, NE), Thursday, May 10
- Bunche Middle School (1925 Niskey Lake Road, SW), Monday, May 14
- Brown Middle School (765 Peeples Street, SW), Thursday, May 17
- Garden Hills Elementary School (285 Sheridan Drive, NE), Monday, May 21
Here is the schedule for the Public Hearing:
- APS Center for Learning and Leadership (CLL – 130 Trinity Avenue, SW), Monday, June 4, 6 p.m.
Changes to the proposed budget may be made before the Board votes to adopt a final budget at its meeting on June 4, 2018.
We are committed to being open and transparent with you, so I want to bring you up to speed on where things stand, provide details about what’s in the proposed budget and share the impact we expect it will have across the district if approved. The tentative FY2019 General Fund Budget is about $815 million, roughly $38 million more than our current budget.
Even with many budget constraints and challenges that require us to balance several competing priorities, this budget still distributes more funds out to the school sites. Some constraints include an additional $16 million in mandatory costs related to the Teachers Retirement System (TRS), $1.6 million towards unfunded pension, bringing the total investment in this effort to $55 million, and additional investments in healthcare benefits.
Our central office continues to work with schools to balance the Principals capacity with the operational management of certain initiatives. For FY2019, $9 million was decentralized, shifting the authority and decision making for $5 million in textbooks and $4 million in substitutes to the individual schools.
The FY2019 budget invests an additional $250,000 towards completing the refresh of all high school weight rooms, and another $250,000 towards the continued support of the cultural experience program and continues investments in both social and emotional learning and positive behavioral interventions and supports at previous year levels. The FY2019 budget continues investments and adds $350,000 towards funding the district Pre-K teachers on the APS salary scale, bringing the total supplement for this effort to $1.3 million
As I have stated before, we have also found ways to slim down our costs, including about $4 million in reductions from our Central Office budgets. Over the past four years, we have reduced our central office expenditures by more than $25 million and more than 100 fulltime positions.
Because of that, we have been able to create more investments in our proposed spending plan. This includes:
- $10.7 million in our long-term, over-arching Turnaround Strategy to improve our lowest-performing schools, including supplemental and critical support and partnerships with educational organizations with expertise in turnaround strategies.
- $11.1 million for signature programming such as STEM, International Baccalaureate and College and Career Prep, up $1 million from the previous year.
- Well over $40 million for whole-child development programs and initiatives like athletics, arts, social and emotional learning, foreign languages, physical education and more.
- $12 million for a compensation strategy that represents a shift away from across-the-board percentage increases and makes strategic investments in remaining pay parity issues.
- The plan includes both a step increase AND a 1% salary increase for all eligible instructional and non-instructional employees, plus increased supplemental duty stipends for teachers and market adjustments for specific positions, like bus drivers, LPN nurses and HVAC technicians. For the first time in years, pay rates for hourly employees are being increased as well.
- To continue to right-size our budget and be able to make these pay increases, cell phone stipends and bereavement leave pay will be eliminated, and annual duty salaries are being reduced from 254 days to 252 days.
- $800,000 in continued support for our leadership development initiative; offering training, support and leadership development for our Teacher Leaders, Aspiring AP and Principal programs and new School Business Managers.
We right size our district every year to manage against available resources and our priorities for increased savings, efficiency, and redirection to programs and schools.
So, this proposed budget also includes a staff reduction plan that would remove 299 positions (269 school-based, 30 in central office) and create another 133 positions (121 school-based, 12 in central office) to better meet the needs of our students. These reductions fall within three primary categories:
- Downsizing of central office to ensure that we maximize the resources provided directly to schools
- Phased transition of schools to turnaround partners as part of our larger turnaround strategy, or
- Support for individual needs or programming of schools, including master schedules, course requests, and cluster plans.
Once the budget is approved, we will continue to implement the Student Success Funding model that moves us closer towards ensuring a more equitable and stable distribution of funds and allows Principals and GoTeams to allocate funds in a way that better meets the specific needs of their students. This keeps us on the path to becoming a more efficient, quality-driven school district.
I want to send a shout out to our Chief Financial Officer, Lisa Bracken, and the rest of our Budget Department for all of the work they’ve done to manage our budget effectively and to help us build a strong budget for the future. A special thanks to Nancy Meister, Chair of the Budget Commission, and Budget Commission members Michelle Olympiadis, and Byron Amos. Also, thank you to the members of the Budget Finance Advisory Committee. I also want to encourage you to participate with us in this process by attending the public regional community meetings.
Help us stay true to our mission of remaining focused on our core value of putting students and schools first. We are on a Journey of Transformation together, and each year I feel we are getting closer and closer to our destination.