Dalton Public Schools has been struggling with revenue shortfalls from both state and local sources in recent years causing significant changes to operating budget expenditures.
The state legislature has funded a smaller percentage of the total cost of education in Georgia over the last several years. In 2004, state support for public education was 55 percent of general fund revenues, but in 2009 that percentage started to decline. In 2010, the percentage dropped to 47 percent for the average school district with an expectation that this slide will persist. While the economy hasn’t fully rebounded, the district is hopeful no additional cuts in state revenue will occur in 2013-2014.
The district experienced its most significant state funding reductions in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, the district showed a higher percentage of state funding primarily due to an increase in enrollment. Since 2011, state revenue has been relatively stable.
The 6 percent decline in the local property tax from 2010 to 2011 was the largest in recent history for the City of Dalton. The loss of digest value due to loss in property values during the recession resulted in a $1.9 million drop in local school revenue. The first-year phase-in of the freeport tax exemption compounded losses in revenue for the district. This 20 percent cut in taxes for commercial and industrial inventory resulted in $700,000 reduction in revenue. In the future, the freeport exemption could increase up to an additional 80 percent which will further reduce revenue from local sources.
Local property tax revenue was its lowest level in 2011 and 2012. Actual property tax revenue for 2013 is up $600,000 since 2012, however the 2014 budget anticipates a $300,000 drop from the 2013 year.
Salary and benefits are about 83 percent of the district’s expenditures. Therefore, as the economic decline deepened, the district was forced to respond with tough financial choices, including eliminating positions, implementing multiple salary reductions, and scaling back programs. In 2008, actual general fund expenditures were $59.4 million. By 2011, general fund expenditures were down nearly $7 million to $52.7 million.
The reductions in revenues and expenditures, combined with growing enrollment, have resulted in a lower expenditure per student for the district. However, the quality of our academic program remains strong and the district remains sensitive to cuts that directly affect classroom instruction. Dalton Public Schools is committed to maintaining appropriate resources to ensure educational excellence while being responsive and respectful to the local economy and community.
Each year since 2011, the board has approved adding positions to address growing enrollment and program needs throughout the district and expenditures have increased accordingly.
Current Fiscal Year 2016
The board and district administration continue to be good stewards of financial resources. The current fiscal year 2016 budget includes additional teaching, administrative and support positions. A significant challenge with this year, as in previous years, is the continued cost increase for both the employer and employee State Health Insurance.