Cherokee County residents are invited to weigh in on a $567 million budget for Cherokee County School District that could create over 130 new school positions.

Thursday, school board members tabled the budget, recommended by Superintendent Brian Hightower. They are expected to vote on it in June after three public hearings.

Public hearings are set for for 11:30 a.m. June 9, and 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. June 17. The board is scheduled to vote on the budget at their June 17 meeting at 7 p.m. For the full budget, bit.ly/3vbQVYm.

The proposed budget, up from this year’s $520 million budget, calls for the millage rate to stay at 19.45 mills. Of that, 1.25 mills is dedicated to go toward repaying school district bonds. Although the rate is the same, it represents a 5.28% tax increase due to rising property values. To collect the same amount in revenue as last year, the school district would have to set a rate at 17.287 mills.

The budget adds up to 125 new teachers to support “supplemental learning opportunities” and 30 more to address growth in certain areas like career pathways, two school nurses, two school psychologists and one social worker, according to the school district. It also adds new district staff for student social and emotional learning initiatives, and one staff member for the federal Title I program. The budget invests $7.9 million in longevity step increases and a 1% cost of living raise for eligible employees. There are no furlough days for employees, despite a drop in state funding.

The school district is the largest employer in Cherokee County, and next school year expects to have about 4,887 employees.

The budget projects a student enrollment of 40,938 next school year, a 285-student drop from this school year. In March, the most recent date enrollment data is available from the Georgia Department of Education, CCSD’s enrollment was down by 1,486 students, or nearly 3.5%, from 42,645 in March 2020. This is attributed to some parents delaying starting prekindergarten and kindergarten, or moving to home school due to the pandemic, according to school district spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby.

Projects funded by the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax for fiscal year 2022 include a multi-year replacement project for Cherokee High School, a new instructional wing and auxiliary gymnasium at Creekview High School and a new instructional wing at Creekland Middle School. Construction is expected to be finalized for finalizing a new instructional wing at Woodstock Middle School and a new gymnasium at Woodstock High School. The district is expected to begin a multi-year project to build a new Free Home Elementary School, as well as a major mechanical renovation at R. M. Moore Elementary School.

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Shannon Ballew is the managing editor at the Cherokee Tribune and the Cherokee Ledger-News. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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