APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen  (Photo by Clare Richie)
APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen (Photo by Clare Richie)

Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen presented the tentative fiscal year 2016 general fund budget to the Atlanta Board of Education during its March 2 work session. The $683 million budget is to cover operating costs for the 2015-2016 school year.

The general budget of $682.8 million is approximately a $25 million increase over 2015’s budget of $657.6 million. The growth in revenue is attributed to anticipated increases in state funding as well as local property taxes. The $25 million increase in revenue is offset by approximately $31 million in required expenditures going into 2016.

$21 million will be needed to meet expected enrollment increases in APS charter schools that were previously authorized to phase in additional grades on an annual basis. The charter school budget will increase from $71 to $92 million. There will also be an increase in the special education budget from $43.2 to $48 million. Another $3.7 million will address increased employer contribution rates in the teacher retirement system contribution, while $1.4 million is needed for an increase in pension funding.

To help balance the budget, Carstarphen said there would cuts in administration at the central office by nearly 10 percent for a savings of approximately $5 million. Additionally, APS is proposing a significant change in the method used to allocate staff at schools. Currently, the district assigns staffing for core, specialty and special education teachers at each school. For 2016, the proposed method would give each school a general allotment of teachers and another one for special education teachers. This allows each school discretion in how it assigns its core and specialty teachers. This new method will right size the teaching staff without impacting instruction and yield about $8.77 million in reductions.

This approach in the 2016 budget also gives each school flexible dollars for them to tailor more staffing and programs that address unique needs and demands of their students. Additionally, this school-level decision making and discretion align with the goal of the proposed Charter System operating model for the district.

“I believe it is important to provide APS stakeholders with a better understanding of how we fund schools, departments and services with their tax dollars,” Carstarphen said. “I have a responsibility to ensure that all resources – local, state, federal and private dollars – are used to their fullest potential. We pledge to deliver a high-quality education that is supported by a responsible, transparent and efficient budget process.”

Budget meetings are planned from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on March 19 and April 2 at Benjamin E. Mays Conference Room, at the Center for Learning and Leadership, 130 Trinity Street, S.W., Atlanta 30303.

There will be four community conversations held across the district, each starting at 6 p.m.

  • March 11 – Young Middle School
  • March 18 – Springdale Park Elementary School
  • March 25 – South Atlanta High
  • April 1 – Garden Hills Elementary School.

The school board will consider adoption of the budget at its April 13 meeting.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.