The Butts County Board of Education (BOE) tentatively approved the school system’s Fiscal Year 2020-2021 (FY2021) budget at a called meeting on June 23. The new budget of $39,952,441 is approximately $500,000 less than the current year budget, and despite a reduction in state funding, will not need a millage rate increase.
“We are finally to the point where we feel comfortable enough to be able to approve our tentative budget,” Superintendent Dr. Todd Simpson told the board. “A couple of things I want to point out are that first and foremost, we are happy to report that it is my recommendation that our millage rate remain the same. We are not increasing our millage rate; it will stay at 15.96. I think this is the ninth or tenth year in a row that our board has not raised the millage rate and we’re very proud of that.
“I think the other thing to celebrate, too, is that we have a budget that does not require any furlough days of our staff, or reductions in salary. We’re not freezing anybody’s salary. If someone is due to get a step raise, they will get their step raise. We’ll be able to fund our budget.”
Simpson explained that there are several reasons why they will be able to fund the budget without a tax millage increase.
“We have scrutinized our budget heavily over the past couple of months to make cuts where we can,” Simpson said. “It is important for people to understand, too, that even if you try your best to keep your budget flat and are not going to increase it in terms of adding additional personnel or programs, you would still likely see an increase because of things like step raises or the cost of materials going up or the cost of things like fuel and energy. It is very hard to keep it flat without really being careful with personnel. This budget is going to require that we absorb some personnel across the district, everybody from central office to every school is doing that. We’re going to thrive with less.”
Simpson said that even though they are not asking for a tax millage increase, the school system will receive more property tax because property values have increased.
“We are very fortunate in that our tax digest of available property and property wealth has grown,” he said. “We’ve got new houses on property that weren’t there the year before. We’ve also got some properties that have been reassessed and their values have increased, and that has helped us. Even though we’re not raising the millage rate, we will collect more in the way of local dollars.
“TAVT (Title Ad Valorem Tax) collection has also been a good year for us,” Simpson added. “A lot of people are buying vehicles, obviously. We’re going to be conservative with our projection, so we have $1 million coming from TAVT.”
Butts County will received approximately $2 million less in the their Quality Basic Education (QBE) funding from the state than they had estimated to receive prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with state funding cuts for nurses and transportation.
Their equalization funding will also be about half of what they received last year, but Simpson said they anticipated that reduction. The state gives what is called “equalization” money, which is based on the difference per student in local ad valorem tax revenue versus the estimated QBE cost to educate that student.
Together that equals a loss of about $2.5 million in expected revenue, but the school system will make that difference up out of its fund balance.
“We’re very thankful for the flexibility that we have because the board and district have been careful stewards of our resources in the past,” Simpson said. “We will end the school year with $10.5 million in the bank and we will use about $2.5 million of that to help us close the gap. There are a lot of school systems that won’t have that flexibility.”
The school system is also receiving $800,000 from federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. Simpson said they will use $600,000 of that to assist in the operation of the school system, and the remaining $200,000 will go toward helping to pay for some of the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies that the system has to order.
“We’re in the process now of getting ourselves connected with these companies that can come in and really heavily disinfect a building, should we need to do that,” Simpson said. “It is our intention to do that whether or not we have any positive cases in our school. We are making sure that we have someone to come in just as we start to turn the corner into the cold and flu season to come in and disinfect, regardless of how healthy we are.
“We’re going to be fine,” Simpson said at the conclusion of his budget review. “We’re in good shape and have to hope that things get better economically and that this is not a lingering recession. As long as that’s the case, we’ll come through this just fine.”
BOE Chair Millard Daniel was elated at the budget prognosis.
“It is very rewarding for me, because about three and a half weeks ago things were looking kind of bleak,” he said. “We were facing some really hard decisions, and my hope was that we would never ever get to furloughing teachers. I’ve always said that is one of the worst ideas to hit the table in the state of Georgia or anywhere else. To me, teachers are dealing with our most precious resource, our future, generations of tomorrow.”
The BOE approved the tentative budget by a vote of 3-0. Board members Bobby Craven and Clifford Marshall were absent.
The Butts County Board of Education will hold three public hearings on the proposed budget in accordance with state law. They will be:
♦ Thursday, July 9, 10 a.m.
♦ Thursday, July 9, 6 p.m.
♦ Thursday, July 16, 10 a.m.
All meetings will be held at the Butts County Schools Administrative Offices at 181 N. Mulberry Street in Jackson.