Schools brace for $11 million cut in funding

Falling local tax receipts and cuts in state funding may add up to $11 million less total revenue available to spend on Fayette County schools beginning in July, the Fayette County Board of Education has been told.

School system Comptroller Laura Brock at the Feb. 9 meeting provided board members with an initial local revenue projection for the upcoming 2011 school year. That projection shows a decrease of $10,906,869 million in state and local revenues from the current budget of $185.5 million.

Brock said preliminary estimates based on conversations with state staff showed Georgia’s portion of 2011 revenues at $85.95 million, down from $93.907 million this year.

She paired that number with $88.67 million in local property and other county tax collections, down from $91.6 million this year. The drop is expected to be the result of a projected 5 percent decrease in the tax digest.

Those figures total $174.6 million for the 2011 school year, and if they prove accurate, the school board will be looking at ways to make up a potential $10.9 million decrease in overall funding from the current budget year.

Brock emphasized that the numbers were only projections given that local tax digest numbers are not in and that next year’s budget has not been passed by the General Assembly.

As things stand today, the school system is projected to have a general fund balance of $7.88 million on June 30 due to the implementation of numerous cost-saving measures instituted this year and last.

The school system at the end of June 2009 carried a fund balance of approximately $4.5 million.

School system projections to date show this fiscal year ending with a positive balance of $3.371 million, for a total of $7.88 million.

Brock said, “We don’t want to deplete our fund balance,” noting that the school system should keep at least $15 million in reserves for operating expenses.

Referencing the anticipated fund balance, Chairman Terri Smith noted that some of the accumulating balance from this year and last could be used to address potential future cuts or it could be allowed to continue to build.