The Atlanta school board on Monday finalized an $854 million budget that lacks more than $10 million in “unfunded” priorities, including more generous teacher raises.
The Atlanta Public Schools 2020 fiscal year budget, which starts July 1, includes a lower raise for teachers than the state-recommended $3,000.
APS teachers, instead, will receive an average raise of $2,000.
District officials said it would take $4 million more than what APS receives from the state to fully fund the teacher raises, and they said APS doesn’t have the money to make up the difference right now.
“We had to make some tough choices about what we can afford and what we cannot afford,” Superintendent Meria Carstarphen told board members on Monday. “The budget does not include the full raises still, that the board absolutely wanted to provide and the administration wanted to recommend.”
Teachers could receive the additional pay retroactively if APS gets more revenue in the upcoming fiscal year, she said.
Two potential sources for that would be if local property tax revenue comes in higher than the “conservative” 4 percent increase the district has projected, or if the City of Atlanta pays the district millions of dollars from a complicated property tax agreement.
The city and APS signed a deal earlier this year to resolve their dispute over the use of future school property taxes to help pay for the downtown Gulch development. As part of the agreement, the district would allow some school property taxes to be used as an incentive for the massive project. In return, the city agreed to pay APS $10 million in January, money which the district has yet to receive. The city also said it would make a recurring payment of roughly $12 million starting in January 2020.
School leaders said they didn’t want to build that money into the district’s budget until they were confident the city would make the payments. A city spokesman has said that the delay for the first payment is because of pending litigation related to the agreement.
APS administrators came up with a list of unfunded priorities that the district would fund, should it receive additional dollars. That list totals $10,725,500.
The top priority is an additional $1 million to enhance school bus service for students. Next, is giving teachers and other employees more generous raises. Other priorities include converting special education paraprofessionals into full-time employees who receive benefits, providing additional stipends to certain teachers, and releasing an additional $2.7 million to schools.
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