Gwinnett County teachers, bus drivers and other employees are one important step closer to getting their first raise in six years.
The county school board voted unanimously Tuesday evening in favor of a proposed budget that would give workers in Georgia’s largest school district a 2 percent cost-of-living increase. Nearly all teachers also would get a 1.8 percent bump in their pay, called a “step increase,” that’s mainly based on their experience
The salary increases are largely a result of about $60 million in additional revenue from the state in the present school year and projections that the county will collect $20.6 million more in taxes from property owners. The county’s property tax digest is expected to grow — primarily because of higher assessments — for the first time in years, by 5 percent.
Gwinnett’s proposed raises are higher than those in Cobb County, which wants to give its teachers a 1 percent raise. Atlanta Public Schools employees are in line to get a 3 percent raise.
Like other metro counties, Gwinnett’s property tax revenue fell dramatically after the Great Recession of 2008. To compensate, Gwinnett enacted furlough days to save money. There are no plans for furlough days during the next school year, officials said.
Board Chairman Daniel Seckinger cited the raises and the plan to fund a school resource officer in every middle and high school for the first time as among the most important elements of the budget.
“The big takeaway is the lion’s share of the budget is directed toward instruction,” Seckinger said, noting about 70 percent of the budget will go toward student learning.
Gwinnett’s enrollment is projected to grow by 3,233 students when the school year starts in August. The amount of money the county spends on students is expected to increase for the first time since the 2010-11 school year, to $7,804 per student. However, Gwinnett officials said that still puts them in the lower half statewide.
Gwinnett’s proposed budget, $1.86 billion, is about a 2 percent increase from the last school year. The budget is scheduled for final adoption May 15.
By Eric Stirgus
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
By the numbers
$1.86 billion — proposed budget
3,233 — projected number of new students
$1,668.80 — school taxes paid on a property valued at $200,000
10,031 — proposed number of teachers
15 — the average years of tenure of a Gwinnett County teacher
Source: Gwinnett County Public Schools