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Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 9:53am

School Districts Face Budget Challenges

Local school districts are in the midst of crafting their budgets for the next calendar year in the fall. But whether districts can avoid more teacher furloughs may depend on how much federal money they were able to save from last year.

A jobs bill passed by Congress last fall sent Georgia hundreds of millions to prop-up teacher jobs and salaries.
State schools superintendent John Barge says it was open to districts how to best use their share.

“There were no restrictions on that. Some may have given bonuses or salaries or increases. So it all depends on what local systems did with that jobs bill money and how fiscally sound they were already.”

But because many school staffing decisions were already made with the year underway, state officials urged districts to put the money in reserve.

The state’s new fiscal year budget includes about the same funding for education as last year. And that’s where the extra money will help.

Angela Palm with the Georgia Association of School Boards says it’s a case-by-case basis as to how districts will fare next year.

“I think some of them used a little of it to help mitigate some of the furlough days last year. But for the most part they put it away this year, because we all knew the federal stimulus money would be gone.”

But Palm says still, many districts won’t be able to avoid more furloughs.

K-through-12 education accounts for nearly $7 billion of the $18.3 billion state budget.