The Atlanta school board on Monday approved the district’s $842.9 million general fund budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. BITA HONARVAR/AJC FILE PHOTO
Photo: Bita Honarvar
Photo: Bita Honarvar

Atlanta school board approves $843 million budget

It’s the budget that just keeps changing.

The Atlanta school board on Monday approved a nearly $843 million general fund budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The plan includes $31 million in cuts and uses millions in rainy day funds to balance the budget.

The vote came after the Atlanta Public Schools’ finance team had reworked the budget multiple times in recent months as projected state revenue numbers kept shifting.

Minutes after the board unanimously approved the budget, they learned state numbers had changed again. Luckily, it was for the better.

The state previously warned districts that the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic would lead to cuts to education dollars.

APS initially expected to use about $30 million in fund reserves to close the gap. But by the time the board approved the budget, officials determined the district would only need to use about $18.3 million.

The budget outlook changed again after Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday proposed another reduction in state spending cuts as the Georgia legislature worked to pass a final budget. The latest proposal would lessen the blow to school districts and other agencies.

For APS, the new state numbers mean the district would need to use about $14.8 million in fund balance, should the board decide to use the additional state revenue to preserve its rainy day funds. That would leave APS with roughly $91 million in rainy day funds as of June 30, 2021.

District officials have been trying to protect the fund balance in anticipation that future years could bring additional revenue declines.

The district is expected to move forward with roughly $31 million in budget cuts. Officials avoided staff layoffs and furloughs by instead cutting funding to schools and central administration, delaying a big textbook purchase and implementing other cost-saving measures.

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen told board members the budget allows APS to begin the year on solid footing.

“You are able to start strong and not obliterate the district going into the next school year. But the challenging news is that there’s still a lot of work to go ahead,” she said.

The board will be asked to amend its just-approved budget at the next meeting to reflect the better-than-expected state numbers.

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