“The teachers that lived in Cobb County could go to surrounding counties and make more money by driving 20 or 30 minutes” several years ago, Ragsdale said. “We can’t allow ourselves to get back into that position.”
The raises are “sustainable,” Ragsdale said, because the district is not using federal pandemic aid that will eventually run out to pay for them.
The budget draws $30 million from the district’s reserves. Last year, the district had roughly $52 million in its reserves, but Chief Financial Officer Bradley Johnson said he wouldn’t know how much the district will have this year until the end of June.
“It remains to be seen until we close the books,” he said. Because of the district’s conservative approach to budgeting, it may not use all of the reserve funds it expected to in the 2021-2022 budget.
District policy requires the board to maintain enough reserves to cover one month of expenses. Currently, the district has enough to cover one to one-and-a-half months.
Local government entities are generally advised to maintain enough reserves to cover two months of expenses, board member Randy Scamihorn said. The district amended its policy to get through the Great Recession.
But the district continually earns high ratings from independent credit agencies that recommend two to three months of expenses be held in reserve, the district said in a statement.
“The fund balance has been a major tool for the district in terms of getting through the budgets that we’ve had to deal with over the last 15, 20 years,” Johnson said. He added that the district uses it for emergencies like the pandemic or natural disasters, as well as to cover costs that are later reimbursed by grants.
“We are committed to meeting our auditor and credit agency recommendations,” the statement said.
The district will vote on the millage rate in July, but the budget keeps the rate at the current 18.9%. Johnson said the rate hasn’t changed since 2007. Revenue from property taxes is expected to grow as property values increase. The district is also expecting an increase in state funding.