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Forsyth FY21 school budget to use $13M in reserves to overcome state cuts
07152020 Board of Education 1

The Forsyth County Board of Education tentatively approved a fiscal year 2021 budget Tuesday that will require $13.7 million from the school system’s reserves to overcome the loss of state funding from the coronavirus pandemic.

During a special-called meeting, Forsyth County Schools chief financial officer Larry Hammel outlined the system’s $485,000,034 in costs for the coming fiscal year, which includes 167 new countywide positions, many of which account for the opening of Poole’s Mill Elementary School. 

But Forsyth will have $471,262,137 to spend from its general revenue funds, a $13,736,167 shortfall that reflects a loss of $23,276,542 in state funding and more modest growth in the local tax digest than previous years.

The shortfall will drop the school system’s general fund balance from $75,392,925 to $61,654,758.

School officials had been anticipating cuts to state funds as the COVID-19 pandemic brought Georgia’s economy to a crawl in April. State revenue continued to lag in May and June. Gov. Brian Kemp ordered state agencies to cut 11% from their budgets, including the Georgia Department of Education.

School systems receive state funding based on the Quality Basic Education formula, which calculates what a school system needs to spend on employees and other expenses based on the number of full-time enrolled students. FCS is projected to start the 2020-21 school year with 50,784 students.

The formula then subtracts how much the state thinks a school system should pay.

(See the full Forsyth County Schools FY21 budget here).

FCS projects $225,061,070 in QBE funding for FY21, down from $248,337,612 in FY20.

The school system also received $1.9 million from the state in CARE Act relief funds and other grants, as well as $276,000 from the federal government. 

The budget projects an increase of about $8.2 million in funding from local property taxes, to $218,167,530. That’s up from almost $210 million in FY20, but not as much as previous years, officials said, and the Board voted to maintain the school system’s millage rate at 17.3 mills for the sixth-straight year.

The 167 new positions add up to $12,508,497, but employee salary and benefits spending would only increase from $348,933,631 to $351,923,991 in FY21 after the school system saved almost $9.5 million by adding furlough days to the staff calendar.

That calendar, as well as the one for students, will be revealed and voted on at the Board’s July 21 regular meeting at 6 p.m., during which the budget and millage rate will get a final vote.

Final public hearings for the budget and millage rate will be held before the regular meeting at 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., respectively, at the Forsyth County Board of Education Central Office Building, at 1120 Dahlonega Highway.

Those meetings can also be viewed live on Microsoft Teams. Recordings of the meetings are posted on the school’s system’s YouTube page the following day.