Gov. Brian Kemp signed a $25.9 billion state budget Tuesday for Fiscal Year 2021 that cuts $2.2 billion in spending, including nearly $1 billion in reductions for public schools.
But everyone from the governor to lawmakers and Douglas County Schools Superintendent Trent North said they were grateful the reductions weren’t worse.
The Douglas County Board of Education is expected to adopt its FY21 budget by the end of July, about a month later than usual, after getting final funding numbers from the state budget passed by the Legislature last week.
North said he and the BOE “are grateful” to Kemp and the Legislature. Kemp had originally said state budget cuts could be as much as 14% across the board, but budget cuts were kept to 10%.
North said Kemp froze equalization and local fair share, which is money the district gives to the state.
“Because of that, the Board of Education and I are confident furloughs are off the table for the Douglas County School System,” North said. “We will be able to fund step pay raises for teachers. No one will lose their job in the Douglas County School System.”
North added: “Our school system is in a good place financially. While we are in a good fiscal place, it will take us several years to recover from COVID-19.”
And he praised the BOE and General Assembly for putting the Douglas County School System “in a good, fiscally sound position.”
Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, said education accounts for approximately 53% of the state budget.
“So, obviously education got the biggest cut; it has the biggest budget,” said Dugan, whose 30th District includes parts of Douglas, Carroll and Paulding counties.
The $950 million in education cuts was trimmed from the Quality Basic Education (QBE) formula, which is used to determine funding for K-12 education. K-12 education is the largest single expenditure in the budget, totaling $9.6 billion, or 44.1% of the state general funds budget.
While schools will be cut, Dugan said that every school in the state has a reserve to fall back on, and that also weighed into the decision by lawmakers to cut what they did.
Other enrollment-driven grants are also impacted, including reductions of $6.1 million to the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Supports, $4.2 million to the Preschool Disabilities Services, and $155,195 to Tuition for Multi-handicapped.
Some areas in education saw no change, and some even saw an increase in funding. Full funding for Georgia Pre-K was among the areas that was maintained.