Much like the rest of the state had to pause as a result of COVID-19, so did the Georgia General Assembly; this meant legislators had to place on hold a lot of critical work that impacted all facets of life. For us in the k-12 education world the most critical hold was that placed on passing a budget because it impacted the ability of districts to set their budgets for the coming year. Well, the legislature reconvened on June 15, to complete the 2020 session, and on this past Friday they passed the 2021 budget. Angela Palm shared a breakdown of that budget with you in Capitol Watch Online which is linked below:
As I read Angela’s budget breakdown, listened to comments from legislators regarding the budget, and read newspaper articles regarding the state’s budget, I want to encourage you to make sure you are communicating with your stakeholders in your community about your specific budgets. Make sure you are speaking with your teachers, administrators, staff, parents, business partners, and municipal and county leaders about your budget and the decisions that drive it. In addition to what you are able to take away from Angela’s excellent assessment of the budget, I’d like to suggest you decouple your district from k-12 funding as a state and localize it for your district. Why is this important? When you localize the budget to your district you are able to highlight and focus on your district’s specific needs. It is always important that your stakeholders are aware of those needs and the funding you have available to address them, COVID-19 only increased the importance of communicating this information.
In addition to areas you take away from Angela’s budget update, here are a couple of items GSBA suggests you develop messaging to share:
- Share the percentage of QBE funding you receive from the state to support your budget; it currently ranges from 15% to 85%.
- Share the percentage of local tax revenue you receive to support your budget; it currently ranges from 8% to 78%.
- The CARES Act funding allows for grants to be made to districts ranging from $90,954 to $33,585,162; make sure your community knows how much your district received in a CARES grant.
- Share with your community the amount of funding you have in reserves, and how much of those reserves are restricted and unrestricted. In the case of restricted funds, explain those restrictions.
- Share with your community the dollar amount of a 10% cut to QBE. In some cases, the CARES grant and unrestricted funds may fill the gap; if they do not, make sure you make that clear to your communities. But also help your community to understand your need to plan with a multi-year look since nobody knows how long COVID-19 will continue to impact the economy, thus your need to be judicious with your reserve.
- Share with your community the new costs you will incur to ensure a safe environment for students and staff, as well as the budget priorities you set as a district.
I cannot stress the importance of you, the governance team, leading the discussion in your community regarding the budget for your district. One of your key responsibilities as a school board member is to approve a budget for your district and to communicate that budget’s priorities to the community. The stresses that have been placed on the economy and funding for the next school year dictates clear and concise communications on the financial needs of your district; own that narrative, no one should know it better than you. Please let us at GSBA know if there are ways we are able to assist you in this work.