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Health insurance costs account for increase in Rome City School System’s FY24 budget

Wednesday, May 17, 2023–11:44 a.m.

-David Crowder, WRGA News-

Rome City Schools Director of Finance Greg Studdard and Superintendent Eric Holland present the school system’s proposed 2024 budget during Wednesday’s Rome Finance Committee meeting

The cost of health insurance will mean an increase in expenditures in the Rome City School System’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget.

On Wednesday, Rome City School Superintendent Eric Holland, and school system director of finance Greg Studdard presented the proposed budget to the Rome Finance Committee.

Expenditures for the school system are expected to increase from $75,010,000 to $77,300,000 from this year to the next.

The budget projects total revenue at $75,653,000, up from $70,866,790 in FY 2023. The city appropriation will go from $24,411,240 in 2023 to an estimated $26,700.000 in 2024. That is based on a projected seven percent increase in property tax revenue. That is a conservative number since it is anticipated that the tax digest could increase by ten percent.

State revenues will increase by approximately $4.7 million, but will not be reflected in the fund balance because it will go to pay for the $2,000 salary increase for certified employees as approved by Governor Brian Kemp and to pay for an increase in health insurance costs, which are going up.

“It’s going to go from a little over $11,000 to almost $19,000 per year, per employee,” Studdard told the committee. “We will get funds from the state to cover our certificated employees, our teachers, but all the costs for classified personnel are going to have to come out of local funds. So, that’s going to be a major expense over the next three years.”

The increase was retroacted to this January for certified personnel. Starting next January, it’s going to be for everyone. The FY24 budget anticipates an increase of $2,920,491 in health insurance costs, which is an increase of 54.9 percent. Without that increase, the Rome City School System’s expenditures would actually be down from last year.

“The scary thing is, last year we added 30 paraprofessionals and their salaries range between $18,000 and $20,000,” Holland said. “Just those 30 would cost us an additional $625 per month. Some superintendents in the state are reducing the number of para pros and increasing the number of teachers because if you do the numbers, it would be cheaper to have more teachers and fewer paras because the health insurance costs are so high.”

Another challenge facing the Rome City School System is the state formula for school bus drivers, which is based on numbers that are nearly 20 years old.

 “I know we didn’t even have buses in 2005, and I’m not sure how much land has been annexed into the city since then, but I’m sure none of that has been included in our allotment,” he said. “We earn 18 bus drivers and we have 60 or so. I’m used to seeing earning around 80 percent of the number of drivers you have. So, that would make me think we should be earning 35 or 45, which would be a huge revenue increase.”

A few years ago, an arrangement to transport city students using Rome Transit Department buses ended after 35 years following an audit by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The proposed budget is set for a vote during the Rome City School Board’s Jun. 13 meeting.