Gwinnett school board adopts $2.8 billion budget

The Gwinnett County school board adopted a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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The Gwinnett County school board adopted a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Superintendent suggested lowering millage rate

The Gwinnett County school board adopted a budget that includes employee raises, new jobs and more pre-K classes.

The budget totals about $2.8 billion and will take effect July 1.

The adopted budget is less than the current budget because the district has spent federal pandemic funds. The general fund, which covers most of the district’s operating costs, will increase by $58.5 million to more than $1.9 billion.

ExploreGwinnett schools’ proposed budget includes pay hikes, new programs

Meanwhile, Superintendent Calvin Watts proposed reducing the millage rate because of higher-than-expected real estate assessments. He suggested lowering the millage rate to 20.65 mills, 0.7 mills less than the current rate. The initial draft of the budget recommended no change to the rate.

Watts said he recommended the new rate while “understanding the financial impact that the increased property values have on taxpayers, but also balancing the continuing needs of the school district.”

The board voted in favor of the change Thursday, but it still must hold public hearings and a second vote for full adoption.

The budget provides raises through a salary step increase for nearly all teachers and 43% of other employees. Teachers also get a $2,000 cost-of-living raise. Other employees would receive a cost-of-living raise of at least 4%.

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Gwinnett is also raising minimum salaries. The new minimum wage will be $13.50 per hour, according to Chief Financial Officer Joe Heffron. The lowest-earning employees in the district are paid $9 per hour. Heffron said the district wants to bump the minimum wage to $15 per hour within a year or two.

The budget calls for hiring 182 teachers to reduce class sizes, and the opening of Seckinger High School in Buford created about 200 new jobs.

For the first time ever, Gwinnett will provide general education pre-K classes at eight schools in the upcoming school year. Previously, pre-K programs at elementary schools were exclusively for special education students. The budget also funds a new literacy program that will be implemented in about half of elementary schools starting in August.