The Douglas County Board of Education on Monday tentatively adopted a $266.7 million budget for Fiscal Year 2022 that includes 5% raises for teachers and paraprofessionals and 2% raises for all other staff.

The tentative FY2022 budget is about $13 million more than last year’s budget. Superintendent Trent North said the state cut $16 million from the district last year during the height of the pandemic and returned 60% of those “austerity” cuts, or a little over $9 million, in the fiscal 2022 state budget. North said that $9 million extra from the state this year, along with the proposed pay raises, account for almost all of the $13 million increase in FY22.

The BOE is expected to adopt the budget at its June 21 meeting.

North called teachers and paraprofessionals “the hardest working people in the district,” and said the 5% raises are long overdue.

“The board and I are very excited that we’re able to give a pay raise that we know that we’ll be able to sustain going forward and it compliments the hard work of those that are in the classroom,” he said. “We recognize that as a district we are all a team, we can’t make it without our bus drivers, our school nutritionists, our counselors, our media specialists, our principals. But the reality is our main responsibility is to provide the highest level of instruction to all of our students. And the research is very clear, the individual who has the greatest impact on student achievement is the classroom teachers. What we’re doing, it aligns with research best practices. So we’re excited.”

North said the BOE plans to adjust its salary schedule for teachers reflecting the additional 5%. He said for new teachers, the additional pay will be around $2,000 a year and will go up from there for those with more experience and post-graduate degrees.

All other employees of the school system — full time and part time — will receive 2% raises if the tentative budget is adopted by the BOE next month.

In addition to the raises, North said the district plans to use CARES Act money to add about 20 staff members to keep class sizes down. He said staffing cuts were made last year as the district saw enrollment drop by more than 600 students but that he is hopeful the students return and that the 20 positions will prepare for that growth in the 2021-2022 school year.

North said that the school board plans to cut its maintenance and operations millage rate from 19.6 to 19.5 mills. While he said the county’s tax digest hasn’t been finalized, he expects the rate set by the BOE later this summer will be around 5% above the rollback rate. The rollback rate is the rate that brings in the same amount of revenue as the previous year. Anything above that is considered a tax rate increase by the state.

The school system’s reserve fund is projected to be at $40.3 million, or 15% of the total budget, at the end of FY2022.

Revenue is projected at $260.7 million, with about $156 million of that coming from state sources, $94 million coming from property taxes and the remainder coming from other sources.

The largest expenditure by far is instruction, which accounts for $183 million, or 68.6% of the total budget, followed by school administration at $21 million (7.9%) and maintenance and operations at $12.4 million (4.7%).

The school system recently moved its central office into the former GreyStone Power headquarters, which was purchased last October with GreyStone moving to a new campus in Paulding County.

The school system agreed to pay $12.5 million for the GreyStone building over 15 years as part of a lease-purchase agreement. The yearly payment for the former GreyStone building is $498,372.07 and is a new line item in the FY2022 budget.

The district’s former central office, which was in a converted warehouse on Highway 5, is being torn down and will be replaced by a new arena the school system plans to use for graduations and other events in the future.