With the ongoing pandemic interrupting nearly every part of everyday business, it’s no surprise it’s taken so long for the school systems to tackle budgets, but both are ready to go, as the two school systems passed their tentative budgets this week.

In fact, the Walton County School District only received its allotment sheet from the state, informing it of its share of state funding for the coming school year, earlier this month.

“We usually get this in April,” Superintendent Nathan Franklin said Tuesday night at the work session for the Walton County Board of Education. “The first three versions all had errors, too. The first one was off by millions.”

Still, the budget is nearing completion, even if in a more rapid state than usual.

The budget is tighter than in a long time. Although not as high as the $11.3 million shortfall expected in June, the final numbers show the system will receive $8.75 million less this year from the state than last year, higher than the $5 million cut the system experienced in 2010 during the Great Recession.

Local revenue is actually up this year, which was not the case in 2010. The system is putting in a millage rate of 19.1, lower than last year’s 20.9, but above the rollback rate. Under this new millage rate, homeowners with a house valued at $175,000 will pay $28 more in school property taxes.

Last year’s budget came in at $131.2 million, which the board sought to tighten with a pair of furlough days for teachers and one fewer day in the overall school calendar, making it a 179-day school year.

The board passed the $130.6 million budget Tuesday night in a 6-0 vote, with only Simoan Capers Baker absent. The tentative budget will lay on the table for 30 days and face final approval next month.

Social Circle discussed its own budget concerns in a pair of budget hearings designed to find ways to manage its own cuts, ultimately passing its own $18 million budget Thursday night.

The system actually will see a 9.4% increase in revenue from the millage rate, which will remain at 19.278, above the rollback rate.

But that will only compensate somewhat for a 10% decrease in state revenue worth $1.1 million. Although the system managed to cut 6% in expenditures from last year, it also lost 4% in overall revenue, forcing the system to use $1.2 million in fund balance to balance the $18 million budget.

That’s an overall decrease from last year’s $19.1 million budget. Cuts include five fewer working days for teachers and school employees, and seven fewer days for administrators.

The board unanimously approved the tentative budget Thursday at its monthly meeting, held in person in the Social Circle Middle School gym to allow for social distancing among spectators.

News Editor

Stephen Milligan is the news editor of The Walton Tribune. He lives in Monroe and is a graduate of the University of Georgia.

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