SPRINGFIELD — The Effingham County Board of Education budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30 featured a surplus of uncertainty.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the economic lockdown that accompanied it created misgivings that proved to be unwarranted. Local sales tax revenue remained strong, exceeding projections every month.
“There was some unknown with what the state (legislature) was going to do last year and what the pandemic was going to do,” Superintendent Dr. Yancy Ford said. “The state was in uncharted territory, too, because they didn’t know what revenue was going to look like. Everybody was kind of in the same boat and we are very fortunate that revenues have remained very good.”
The district’s montly E-SPLOST receipts haven’t dipped below $800,000 during the pandemic.
“And we’ve had several months with over $900,000 and a couple months with over $1 million,” Ford said.
The board, which budgeted $650,000 in monthly E-SPLOST revenue, also took proactive measures in case of a revenue downturn. The estimated FY 2021 general fund budget was $119,669,217. Nearly $37 million of that total comes from local sources.
“What made last year, or this current (budget) year, FY 2021, so good is — when we (closed school) because of the pandemic in March — as staff resigned, left (for other jobs) or retired, we just froze those positions,” Ford said. “That was about 25 positions, so we were able to make it through the year without having any furlough days because we froze those positions so early. For this upcoming year, FY 2022, we’ve giving those 25 positions back and we’ve got another 27 that we’ve added.”
The Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Stimulus Act (CARES) also provided a cushion. It furnished Georgia schools with infusions of $457 million and $1.7 billion in 2020, and $3.8 billion in 2021. The funds are distributed to school districts by the state Department of Education.
“CARES 3 is $11 million (for Effingham County),” Ford said. “We haven’t done anything with that yet.”
The board will devise a budget for the CARES 3 funds and submit it to the Department of Education for approval.
CARES Act grants are based on Title I eligibility and funding. Title I is used to help educate low-income students.
“What we’ve decided to do at this time (with CARES 3) is kind of see how some other applications go with other districts, what they use it for and how that plays out,” Ford said. “This summer, we will do some planning to figure out what our needs are. We have until September 2024 to spend it so there’s no need to rush it.
“We don’t need it for FY 2022.”
On Thursday, the board tentatively approved its FY 2022 budget. It includes general fund expenses of $128,151,829 — $16,261 less than projected revenue. More than $88 million will come from the state.
The new budget, based on a rollback of the millage rate to 15.810 from 16.225, will be considered for final approval at the June 17 board meeting.