Attention turns to legislative matters this time of year as the Georgia General Assembly works through its 40 day session. The session this year is scheduled to conclude by the end of March which is a little earlier than in past years. By far, the most important piece of business and the only piece of business legislators are required to complete by law, is the adoption of the state budget for fiscal year 2019.
This year's proposed state budget for education is a mixed bag. No teacher raises were recommended in the Governor's proposal. We will still be impacted by a lingering austerity reduction of approximately 1.5% to 2.0% of our Quality Basic Education formula earnings. I believe this is the 17th year for austerity reductions. The full impact of raising the employer's cost for classified employees health insurance will be felt this year. The state funding formula includes a factor for the employer's share of certified employees' health insurance but not classified.
Any additional formula earnings coming to us will most likely be due to the training and experience factor (i.e. recognition of where teachers fall on the salary schedule based on degrees earned and years of experience) and a small growth in enrollment. A large chunk of state money is being added to the budget for the Teachers Retirement System. Georgia has always had one of the best funded retirement systems in the nation. But, the effect of stock and bond market fluctuations over the past few years as well as the growing number of retirees relative to the total number of currently contributing members places a strain on the ratio of reserves to benefits. So, the $300 million plus being added to the Teacher Retirement System will benefit you by helping insure future retirement payments even if it does come, seemingly, at the expense of current pay increases.
We will keep an eye on the budget as it moves through the General Assembly. The process for developing our budget for the upcoming year is also underway. A number of hard choices may have to be made but that's been the case for awhile. More information will follow as the process unfolds. Have a great weekend.
James D. Smith