Bibb school board approves tentative $187M budget

The Bibb County school board tentatively approved Monday its 2010 fiscal budget, which will make more cuts in salaries for the coming year but aims to spend a little more on facility upkeep because a few new schools will open in August.

School officials predict spending about $187 million in its general fund starting July 1.

It’s about the same amount of spending as in the 2008-2009 school year.

“Over time, we’ve been responding to the (state) budget cuts and tightening our belts,” Superintendent Sharon Patterson said. “It wasn’t like this was our first time. We’ve been taking reductions incrementally over the last few years.”

The school system projects to spend $162.9 million in salaries and benefits in the 2009-10 school year, which includes 81 fewer teaching positions, mostly through attrition and retirement.

The system was able to use fewer teachers since the state relaxed its class-size maximum law which had asked for lower student to teacher ratios but given the economy eased up on the requirement.

In Bibb this coming school year, first- through third grade classroom teachers will be one per 23 students as compared with one per 21 in 2008-09.

There will be one teacher per every 30 students in fourth and fifth grades as compared with one per 26 in 2008-09, although some federal stimulus funds will help hire extra teachers in these grades, Patterson said.

Middle schoolers will have 24 students per classroom while high school classes will have 23 per class, both up a student per classroom versus last year, the budget shows.

“You’ll see. ... more students in some classes,” Patterson said. “There’s no conclusive research that shows it impacts student achievement.”

Other cuts include 21 certified positions, 15 classified positions and eight central office staff for a total $6.6 million salary and benefit reduction, according to the budget.

The system plans to spend $22 million in operations, an increase from this past school year. Start-up costs for the new schools are estimated at $1.16 million and $1.4 million for new textbooks. The system expects to collect $104 million in state revenue, $6.5 million in federal revenue and $76.9 million from local taxes.

If a new Bibb County property revaluation goes according to tax assessors projections, a new tax digest could generate more local taxes for education in 2010. The system projects a $5.4 million increase in property taxes.

The system may also propose a rollback from 19.79 mills to 16.22 mills, according to the budget.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. June 24 and the system plans to formally adopt the budget at 6 p.m. June 24.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.