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Decatur School Board prepared for impact of COVID-19 on district’s budget

COVID-19 Decatur

Decatur School Board prepared for impact of COVID-19 on district’s budget

Decatur High, April 19, 2020. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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By Sara Amis, contributor 

Decatur, GA – Despite anticipated state-wide budget cuts, City Schools of Decatur will not have to make significant changes in its planned budget for next year.

Lonita Broome, CSD’s new Executive Director of Finance, reported that the state of Georgia has advised all school districts to prepare for a 14 percent cut in the budget due to the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For us, a 14% cut from the fiscal year 2020 Quality Basic Education allotment would equate to approximately $4.4 million,” Broome said. “Fortunately for us, the Board and Superintendent designated $5 million from the fiscal year ‘21 tentative budget for future capital projects.  That can be undesignated and reallocated to cover the $4.4 million potential state reduction.”

She added that the $4.4 million number was an estimate but she did not anticipate that it would exceed the $5 million available.

“This is really excellent news and as you know we talked about this many times as we were doing the budget. Little did we know what was coming,” Superintendent David Dude said. “I anticipate that when we approve the final budget we’ll have some certainty about what the budget cut is going to be, but even if we don’t we’re in a good position.”

The school district will be able to go ahead with planned staff recruitment and cost of living increases.

“Hopefully the economy will recover relatively quickly and we’ll be able to keep on like normal following this coming year,” he added.

Frances Holt, Executive Director of State and Federal Programs, stated that under the CARES Act, CSD has been allotted a little over $320,000 to offset extra budget expenses and loss of revenue due to COVID-19, but must share it proportionally with private schools and homeschoolers within their attendance area.

“While these funds are not Title I funds and do not have all of those stipulations around them, we do have to follow some of the same Federal processes with them,” said Holt. Those processes include consultation meetings with other recipients before any money can be allocated, but the money can be used for protective gear for staff, deep cleanings, programs for vulnerable students, and a variety of other expenses.

CSD is making contingency plans for the 2020-21 school year, with three different options based on conditions: a regular opening, virtual opening, and a hybrid opening with reduced school days.

“As you know, things can change very rapidly, so that’s why we’re not trying to make decisions for things that are going to happen three months from now,” Dude said. He said details about the different options would be publicized on the CSD website.

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