The Henry County Board of Education gave final approval of the district’s 2021-2022 budget by unanimous vote at its May 10 regular meeting.
Since tentative approval was given in April, the county’s tax assessors office reported an increase in the tax digest that resulted in a $2 million increase in revenue, according to the report given to the school board. This helps reduce the expected shortfall from $7.6 million to $6 million. The amended general fund budget includes projected revenue of $409.4 million and projected expenditures of $415.4 million.
About $9.4 million is being invested to ensure that salaries in all departments and at all levels remain competitive, according to district officials. This includes across-the-board raises, various step increases and additional raises for employees in job categories under $15 per hour. Additional personnel, both school-based and district-wide, are being put into place to help transition students back to in-person learning and also expand support to those continuing virtual learning.
The new budget comes out to $9,786 spent per student, an increase of $550 over the previous year. The shortfall can be met through the use of federal funds allowed for continuity of services, according to officials.
Three other unique funds are included in the overall budget picture. The special revenue fund is projected to bring in $69.9 million for the coming year, with $210 million in E-SPLOST revenue expected to bolster the capital projects fund as the expected money from the most recent referendum is bonded. Plans are for $64.6 million to be spent from that fund in the coming year to continue E-SPLOST V projects and start E-SPLOST VI projects. The debt service fund will see an expected $76.1 million and spend $47.8 million.
In other business, the school board approved a $105,800 expenditure for a social and emotional learning evaluation program. Panorama Education, Inc. was chosen as the vendor to provide tele-assessment software for this purpose. The overall estimated cost, based on current student enrollment, breaks down to approximately $2.51 per student and no cost for adults, according to officials, and this will allow educators to reach out to students throughout the school year when deemed necessary rather than just conducting a single annual assessment. Funding will come from CARES Act and Title IV allocations.
Upon a request from the information services division, the board approved the annual renewal of Go Guardian, a Chromebook web filtering system and teacher-administrator classroom management bundle. Officials said it has been used successfully in recent years and the agreement was near its expiration date. The cost of $139,650 is budgeted under the county’s E-SPLOST program.
Also approved was a $554,200 allocation for a continued and expanded partnership with the University of Virginia Partners for Leaders in Education for school leadership training and professional development. According to officials, its overall purpose is “to continue to advance school leadership and district leadership to support the principal as the key lever for change, to identify and build exemplars of effective school leadership, and continued development of the Henry County Schools leadership framework.”
A $285,509 purchase was authorized for CTAE Lab upgrades and replacements as part of a Capital Related Equipment Grant from the Georgia Department of Education. The vendor is Reality Works and the purchase includes upgraded lab equipment for agriscience, early childhood, and healthcare science divisions for Dutchtown, Locust Grove, McDonough, Ola, Union Grove and Woodland high schools. Also approved by the school board were resolutions related to the 200th anniversary of the founding of Henry County, a celebration of district employees for their performance during the past year amid the pandemic, and a declaration of the result of the E-SPLOST referendum in March which passed with 68 percent of voters in favor.