CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - Members of the Savannah-Chatham County School Board have officially approved the budget for the next school year.
The good news: It does not include raising your taxes.
There had been talk of a half-million property tax increase to support the 2017 budget, but school officials balanced a budget that did not require that increase, which would have brought in an additional $4 million.
Instead, they crossed a few things off the wish list, and they're asking more from charter schools.
Under the new budget, charter schools will have to pay a 1.5 percent fee to the board over the next two years for administrative expenses. That fee will generate about $200,000 in revenue for the district.
"That could help us address some of the programs that we really cut to the bone as we've gone into this new budget," said Larry Lower, board member for District 6 and budget committee chairman.
But several people disagreed with the move, including a few board members who voted against the budget, saying it was unfair to spring that on the charter schools after they've already done their hiring.
"I think that by giving them such short notice on this 1.5 increase is fiscally irresponsible," said Michael Johnson, the District 7 board member. "If we are going to increase it and give them the fee, we have to give them the heads up for next fiscal year."
Board members were also quick to clarify any rumors, saying this budget does not have any substantial cuts, it just doesn't include the expansions many wanted for certain programs.
"We would have loved to have expanded them based on the initial digest projections, but those didn't come in as they were," said Julie Wade, board member for District 1.
However, it does include funding for 80 new teachers for students who require special services. That's about halfway to the 200 new teachers school officials say are needed in order to reduce class sizes.
Another big priority for the board was preserving $7 million for the district's 5-year pay plan to keep salaries more competitive.
"We had to give up a lot of other things to keep that point intact," said Lower, "because if we didn't do nothing else this year with this budget, that needed to be addressed."
Next year, the board's budget committee will shift to zero-based budgeting. That means they'll ignore what each department has gotten in the past and start from scratch when it comes to allocating money.
You can view the budget proposal the board approved here.