APS budget outlook improves slightly as state updates estimated cuts

The pressure on the Atlanta school district’s budget is easing up just a bit, but cuts are still coming.

The Atlanta school board earlier this month gave tentative approval to an $843 million general fund budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

That plan anticipated using about $30 million in fund reserves, plus making $31 million in budget cuts in order to close a roughly $60 million gap caused by expected cuts in state funding.

Thursday, Lisa Bracken, the district’s chief financial officer, shared updated numbers.

Atlanta Public Schools now projects it will receive $10 million more from the state than what officials projected. That means the district won’t have to dip as far into its rainy day fund to balance next year’s budget.

An economic slowdown from the coronavirus pandemic prompted the state to initially advise school districts to brace for state cuts of 14%. New numbers released last week show the expected cut will be 11% instead.

During a virtual budget meeting on Thursday, Bracken said the district still plans to make roughly $31 million in cuts. That will come from trims to schools and central administration, postponement of a big textbook purchase and other cost-saving measures. Employee salaries will be frozen, but there's no plan for layoffs.

But, Bracken said, the revised state revenue projections mean the district can preserve more of its rainy day funds, and that will put APS in a better position to manage potential shortfalls in future years.

The board is expected to give final approval to the budget on June 22.