Rising pension and health care costs and incentives to attract teachers could be big factors in the Bibb County school system's next budget.
It's estimated the district will have to pay about 24 percent more to cover retirement plans, as compared to last year. The 2019 budget also is expected to include a 5.5 percent increase in health insurance costs to account for higher rates for classified employees.
With Social Security costs and people living longer, "the district is having to fund more," Chief Financial Officer Ron Collier said during the Board of Education work session Tuesday.
The district is also considering initiatives that will attract quality teachers to the district, such as the Historic Macon Home Ownership Incentives Program and a referral bonus program that would award $1,000 to staff members who help recruit teachers that stay for at least a year, Collier said. Paige Busbee, assistant superintendent of human resources, said the district had 36 referrals last year.
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“There is a critical teacher shortage," board member Wanda West said. "I would be for leaving whatever strategy it takes (in the budget) to make sure we have a highly qualified teacher in the classroom and at least somebody with a college degree, and not a whole bunch of long-term subs who have not finished a four-year degree program."
Superintendent Curtis Jones said the district has become more competitive with its salaries for teachers over the last three years, but it's starting to fall behind a little bit. He's waiting to see what happens with the budget's fund balance before recommending a pay-for-performance bonus for next year. The 2018 budget included a 2-percent bonus.
In addition, the district is looking at increased student transportation costs for the next budget. The county began offering bus transportation to all students at magnet school Central High this year, and the same will be done at Burdell-Hunt Magnet School next year. Previously, only students who lived in those school zones could take the bus, according to district officials.
“We’re trying to enhance our magnet program. We figure if we do that, then it will attract more people to come," Collier said.
The Bibb district is set to open a new transportation facility on Cavalier Drive, but the current office on Roff Avenue will remain in operation, Collier said. Additional employees and mechanics will be needed to staff the two sites.
Budget work sessions also are planned for April 17 and May 8.