Gwinnett school board OKs $3.2 billion budget with $4,000 teacher raises

The Gwinnett County school board approved a budget for the fiscal year that begins in July. AJC FILE PHOTO.

The Gwinnett County school board approved a budget for the fiscal year that begins in July. AJC FILE PHOTO.

The Gwinnett County Board of Education on Thursday approved a nearly $3.2 billion total budget, with raises for teachers and staff, for the fiscal year that begins next month.

The board voted unanimously to pass the spending plan. Teachers will receive a $4,000 salary hike. Other staff will get at least a 4.25% increase. All eligible employees also will receive a step increase based on years of experience.

The approved pay raises are larger than what district officials first considered in April, when the preliminary budget called for a $3,000 bump for teachers and a minimum 4% increase for other staff.

Superintendent Calvin Watts announced the higher raises and other budget revisions last week, in response to what he said was feedback from the community and board members. The adjustments will cost an additional $32 million. A Gwinnett spokesman said Thursday the district is in line to receive more state funding than April estimates projected, in part due to increases to transportation and security dollars.

Board member Adrienne Simmons, who along with Tarece Johnson-Morgan voted against the initial budget proposal, previously called for more money to recruit and keep teachers in schools that serve many low-income families, among other initiatives.

On Thursday, Simmons expressed appreciation for the boosted raises, which she said are ”significant in retaining the talent that we have here in the district,” as well as more support for multilingual learners. Both she and Johnson-Morgan approved the updated budget plan during Thursday’s final vote.

Other new items in the final budget include funding for high school graduation coaches to support students at risk of not finishing school and money to pay for students to take the SAT college-entrance exam in the coming school year. The district previously used federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay for its SAT for All testing program.

Gwinnett County Public Schools is the state’s largest school district, with about 24,000 employees and 182,000 students. The general fund accounts for about $2.5 billion of the district’s total budget and pays for daily operational expenses.

The board also tentatively approved its millage rate, with final approval to come after holding public hearings on July 3 and 10. The district is proposing to lower the operation and maintenance millage rate from 19.2 to 19.1. The total millage rate, which includes debt service, is proposed to be 20.55 mills. The district still expects more revenue because of increasing property assessments.

Staff writer Josh Reyes contributed to this article.