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Federal funds soften budget cuts to schools

Systems learned this week of more state reductions

POSTED: June 16, 2009 11:40 p.m.

School districts statewide were handed more state budget cuts this week but received federal stabilization funds to help offset cuts as school boards carefully craft budgets for next year.

Systems were informed Monday of the last state cuts to be absorbed for fiscal year 2009, which ends June 30.

State officials were forced to cut education funding this year because of a significant drop in revenue.

The Gainesville school system received a total of nearly $1.87 million in state cuts this fiscal year, up from the initial $355,900 budget cut the state told the system last August to expect for the year, said Gainesville financial officer Janet Allison.

But Allison said the state Department of Education informed the system Monday it would receive nearly $590,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stabilization funds to lessen the state cuts. "To be cut again this late, it wasn’t a surprise, but thank goodness we have tightened our belt all year," Allison said. "... We started taking measures in the fall knowing we were going to be cut."

She said through attrition, nonrenewed contracts and layoffs, the system has reduced its staff by more than 50 people.

Allison said state cuts will not prevent the system from being able to reduce its estimated $5.6 million deficit by $1.8 million by June 30, but it does reduce the amount the system could have applied to its deficit this month. Because of anticipated economic constraints, the Gainesville school board voted Monday to extend its deficit reduction plan from two years to four years.

The Gainesville system received nearly $24 million from the state last fiscal year, and including federal stabilization funds, the system will receive about $25.9 million from the state this fiscal year.

Because the system became a charter school district this year, it received a roughly $600,000 charter system grant from the state.

The Hall County school system received a total of $8.34 million in state cuts this fiscal year, up from the initial $1.52 million budget cut the state told the system in August to expect for the year, said Hall County schools Deputy Superintendent Lee Lovett.

And the Hall County system learned Monday it would receive $2.7 million of federal stabilization funds to help offset state cuts, Lovett said.

The Hall County system received nearly $120.2 million from the state last fiscal year, and including federal stabilization funds, the system will receive about $118.8 million from the state this fiscal year.

Lovett said the state cuts announced this month will have no effect on the Hall County system because federal stabilization funds replace the slashed state funds.

The Jefferson school system received a total of $815,507 in state cuts this year, up from the initial $146,299 budget cut the state told the system last August to expect for the year, said Jefferson schools financial officer Kim Navas.

Navas said the system received $264,530 in federal stabilization funding to lessen the state cuts.

She said Jefferson schools received about $11.5 million from the state last year. The system this year received about $11.1 million from the state, Navas said.

She said while some state leaders balked at the federal stabilization hand outs, school systems are glad to receive it.

"It’s a huge, huge impact for next year," Navas said. "The big thing is preserving our work force; that’s a major component of it. We’re glad to get it to help us."

Gainesville schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said while there were many financial surprises in fiscal year 2009, it’s fiscal year 2010, which begins July 1, that may hold more challenges for educators.

"At the beginning of 2009, we didn’t know there would be a series of cuts, we thought there might be. But in 2010, we know right up front," she said. "The next fiscal year will actually be more difficult because we’ve already cut everywhere we can without affecting students directly. It’s very uncertain to plan."



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