Some board members expressed concern about dipping into reserves, which Gwinnett also did last year for the first time since the 2008 recession.
If the board wants to balance the budget without reserves, members need to cut $12.9 million from expenses, Heffron said. The new salary and benefit increases are estimated to cost almost $24 million.
“We’re trying to take care of our people,” said board member Steven Knudsen.
Gwinnett is predicting an enrollment increase of about 2,500 students next school year, bringing the total enrollment close to 180,000.
Public hearings on the budget are scheduled for May 20 and June 17, with a final vote the second date. The tax rate will be adopted over the summer.