School board swearing in 2 Julia Bernath

District 7 Fulton County Board of Education member Julia Bernath is sworn in by Fulton Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall Dec. 4, 2018 after being reelected in May.

At $1.06 billion, Fulton County Schools’ 2020-21 academic year general fund budget is about $10 million less than 2019-20.

But due to a loss in Georgia tax revenue brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it could have been lower based on early projections regarding the state budget, which accounts for $358.6 million of the district’s general fund budget, according to its website.

“The state budget was cut by 10% after originally proposed being cut by 14%,” said Marvin Dereef Jr., the district’s chief financial officer. “The end result is a $47 million reduction in state revenue (for the district). However, it is a $7.6 million improvement from our approved tentative (2020-21) budget. We are still assuming a $2 million reduction in revenue for (2020-21) budget compared to (2019-20).”

At a special called meeting June 29 at the North Learning Center in Sandy Springs, the Fulton Board of Education voted 7-0 to approve the district’s 2020-21 budget. The vote came after the board hosted budget hearings June 9 and 18, and the budget had to be approved by July 1, when the district’s fiscal year begins.

Superintendent Mike Looney said the Fulton district won’t furlough any employees due to the budget cuts, and its millage rate will remain at 17.796, which board president and District 7 member Julia Bernath said is the lowest among metro Atlanta districts.

Dereef said the district was expecting to get a report on Fulton’s tax revenue digest this week, but it was delayed because the tax commissioner’s main office in downtown Atlanta was closed temporarily for cleaning and sanitizing due to a coronavirus-related issue.

“We hope to complete the millage rate discussion in July and have the board vote on the millage rate July 14,” he said.

However, Dereef said the district will use $29.4 million in reserves to balance the budget.

But “moving about $15 million of our general fund expenditures into the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security) Act grant really helped us balance this budget,” he said. “This puts the district in good position going into (2020-21), knowing we may need to make some budget adjustments during the year to address the potential challenges ahead.”

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