SPRINGFIELD — The mask Dr. Yancy Ford wore Thursday during his first meeting as superintendent of the Effingham County School District didn’t hide what was on his mind.
Ford, the successor to Dr. Randy Shearouse, who retired May 29, used a large portion of the regularly scheduled gathering to discuss budgetary concerns.
“There’s not a lot that has changed in two weeks,” he said.
The board, which previously met May 21, has been unable to formulate a budget because the General Assembly has been on hold since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly after the session was interrupted, Gov. Brian Kemp ordered all state agencies — without exception — to reduce their budgets by 14 percent in an effort to make up for an anticipated revenue shortfall of $3.6 billion for the next fiscal year.
Ford, the former assistant superintendent, stated during the previous board meeting that the Effingham County School District stands to lose $8 million in state revenue in a “worst-case scenario.” He has participated in several budget discussions with state officials via Zoom in recent days.
“For us as a district, we have been working off of 14 percent because that is the number that we have continued to hear,” Ford said. “I still don’t believe that we will know exactly what that looks like until the legislators return.”
The House is set to go back to work Thursday and the Senate is slated to reconvene Monday. They have until July 31 to OK a budget.
“I do think, from what I’m hearing is, they want to get down to business to getting the budget done and get it back out and get it to school districts because everybody is in the same situation where they are concerned about what’s their QBE and what’s their equalization going to look like,” Ford said. “So then at that point, for us, we can provide options to the board about where we may need to make some cost-saving recommendations to you.”
For Fiscal Year 2020-21, Effingham County’s QBE earnings were $85,217,744 million. A 14 percent reduction in state funding would result in a loss of more than $11 million. An 11 percent cutback would be about $2.5 million less.
Kemp scaled back his demand for cuts to 11 percent in recent days, citing “reassuring signs of fiscal resilience” following the phased reopening of the state’s economy following the nine-week COVID-19 shutdown.
Effingham County’s local revenue streams have remained largely positive despite the pandemic. Ford said the district collected $2.1 million in property taxes in May, leaving it just over $2 million shy of reaching its budgeted total of $30,913,144 for the current fiscal year.
The Effingham County ESPLOST netted the district $738,401 in April. That is $88,401 more than the monthly projection and $33,764 above the same month last year.
In May, ESPLOST receipts soared to $817,898.98. The May total in 2019 was $697,349.
“I think a lot of that had to do with the citizens staying home under the shelter-in-place (order) and shopping local,” Ford said. “That was some good news for the local economy and our school district from an ESPLOST standpoint.”
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed recently by Congress supplied $1.2 million to the district. That total is determined by the number of free and reduced-price lunches served each day.