Grayson College’s board of trustees got a preview of the school’s still-fluid budget for the 2017-2018 school year at its monthly meeting on Tuesday.


The college has a projected budget of $29 million for the coming year and is slated to spend roughly $18.5 million on employee salaries and benefits, $1.1 million on utilities and just $1.4 million on debt repayment. And topping the list of budgetary priorities were employee pay increases, possible maintenance on the school’s heating and cooling systems, and investments in new staff members and class offerings.


“We have good, solid finances and we are heading toward a balanced budget,” Grayson College Vice President of Business Services Giles Brown said. “So we’re in good shape financially.”


No firm figures were assigned to the listed budgetary priorities, but documents provided by Grayson College indicated a 1.5 percent raise for staff would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 and Brown said the school plans to hire eight new employees as part of its initiative to construct and staff a new residence hall, student success center, manufacturing classroom and distillery. The buildings are expected to open in 2018 and cost a combined $12 million-$14 million. The projects will be paid for with Grayson’s reserve funds as well as through possible private donations.


“When you build more facilities there are ripple effects,” Brown said. “Even though we have cash in the bank for the investment itself, it still affects the operating budget.”


But amassing a finalized budget is still dependent on several factors. Brown said the college historically has to wait on official property values to be set in late July, but he explained that the official 2017-2018 budget still hinges on two “wild cards” dealt this year: the level of state funding for the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) and Option Retirement Program (ORP), as well as the results of Grayson College’s in-house salary study, which is currently underway.


“We’ve pretty much got everything in place,” Brown said. “It’s when we get those last puzzle pieces that we can move forward.”


Under the proposed budget, Grayson College has also left itself the option of accessing its $150,000 Student Success Fund for the benefit of its students. And with a little money left over from from the 2016-2017 budget, the school also plans to fund the coming year’s equipment requests for updated police cameras and radiology machinery.


No action was taken by the board in regards to the 2017-2018 budget. Brown said he expects to have a finalized budget assembled by the end of July. Junior colleges, school districts and other taxing units traditionally set their tax rates in August and September.