Fulton County Schools’ chief financial officer said Gov. Brian Kemp’s plans to cut the state budget by hundreds of millions of dollars for fiscal 2021, which begins in July, won’t have a major impact on the district’s budget.

“Board members, as you aware, about 45% of our budget comes from the state’s QBE (quality basic education) allotments,” Marvin Dereef Jr. told the Fulton County Board of Education. “… The governor plans to reduce the (state) budget by $191 million (in expected contributions to the state pension fund for educators), so that means a decrease by about $7.8 million for the district’s budget.”

But, he said, the Fulton budget will still include raises of $2,000 for certified employees and $1,000 for non-certified employees who make less than $40,000 a year, as Kemp had already promised.

Dereef gave an update on the budget, including adjustments for January, at the board’s Jan. 23 meeting at the South Learning Center in Union City.

At the meeting he also presented to the board a report on the fiscal 2018 and 2019 audit recently completed by Mauldin & Jenkins, a southeast Cobb County-based accounting firm. The audit included the district’s CAFR (comprehensive annual financial report), ESPLOST (education special-purpose local-option sales tax) and the employees’ pension trust fund.

The district has an AAA credit rating, the highest possible one, and received mostly high marks from the auditors.

“The opinion expressed by our auditors … is considered an unmodified or clean opinion,” Dereef said.

A clean opinion is the highest opinion an audit can receive and “indicates the auditor’s belief that the entity’s financial statements fairly present its financial results, financial position and cash flows,” according to accountingtools.com.

But there were two problems with the audit.

“The first finding relates to the procurement requirement for federally funded projects requiring the consultation of a federal vendor register prior to committing and spending federal funds,” Dereef said. “The auditors noted that our standard procedures do not ensure compliance with the requirement. We have taken steps to remedy this finding.

“The second finding is related to compliance documentation of time and effort for special education teachers. The auditors noted that compliance documents do not conform to the format required by the federal statutes as a result of system issues and key staff transitions. We have taken steps to remediate this finding as well.”

Board president Julia Bernath, the District 7 representative, and Superintendent Mike Looney praised Dereef and his staff for their efforts.

“I just want to acknowledge the hard work that our finance department does to generate a clean audit,” Looney said. “(With) the volume of work that happens there, it’s commendable. Marvin, to you and your staff, kudos. We appreciate your diligence in taking good care of the taxpayers’ money.”

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