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Midyear Budget Adjustments Set HCS up for Solid FY21 Finish, FY22 Start

Submission Date: April 2, 2021

Release Date:  For Immediate Release

Contact: J.D. Hardin, 770-957-6601 ext. 01161, john.hardin@henry.k12.ga.us

(Release # 0049-04-2021)

Midyear Budget Adjustments Set HCS up for Solid FY21 Finish, FY22 Start  

Midyear Budget Adjustments Set HCS up for Solid FY21 Finish, FY22 Start

Employees set for one-time pay supplement thanks to state funding and board’s commitment to staff

HENRY COUNTY, GA – Like most school districts in the state, Henry County Schools began this uncommon school year facing uncommon deficits due to the worldwide pandemic.  After consecutive years of improving financial conditions, the pandemic changed the trajectory of revenues by effecting a $42 million shortfall at the onset of FY21 which covers the 2020-21 school year.

Through this challenging financial time, the Henry County Board of Education remained committed to employees and students by ensuring that there were no reductions in staffing, multiple meal service models were available for students and families during remote and on-campus learning models, and investments were made in COVID-19-mitigation efforts to open schools.  Even by relying on the conservative approach the district uses as good stewards of taxpayer funds, budget gaps still existed and reserves had to be utilized to operate this year.

As the district continued its cautious financial management at the conclusion of the FY20 budget year and into the FY21 budget, the Henry County Board of Education has now paved a path to greater stability and recovery from the unsustainable pandemic-induced budget challenges.

Federal CARES funding from the first and second disbursements to school districts, along with the Georgia General Assembly’s restoration of 60 percent of the previously enacted austerity cuts, are three key drivers of this recovery.  All combined, the restorations nearly recover the $42 million shortfall and create a more positive outlook for the conclusion of the FY21 budget and start of the FY22 budget-planning season.

A significant development for the current budget was realized thanks to a proposal laid out by Governor Kemp in his State of the State address in January and subsequent action by the state board of education in March resulting in the provision of funding for a one-time pay supplement of $1,000 to education professionals in public school districts.  The Henry County Board of Education is set to take action in April that will extend the one-time recommendation that provides for full-time teachers and employees to receive a $1,500 supplement and a $1,000 supplement for part-time staff thanks to midyear adjustments in state funding.

“Our employees are the backbone of our district,” said Board Chair Holly Cobb.  “Without every single one of them and their passion and dedication to serving students, our district would not be as successful or on the positive trajectory we are on.  This pandemic hit our state and our county hard, but our employees continue to give their best to serve students and deliver a high-quality education.”

With the use of the CARES Act funding from the federal government that has been allocated by the state department of education, along with the midyear budget adjustments and funding provided through a 60 percent restoration of austerity reductions made by the General Assembly, Henry County Schools will be able to accomplish this financial investment in its employees without the use of reserve funding or adjustments to current operational expenses.

“Our board has maintained a commitment to strong fiscal accountability and focusing its resources on students and the staff members responsible for teaching and supporting students,” said Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis. 

Important to the financial picture for the current fiscal year is the preparation of the budget for the next fiscal year covering the 2021-2022 school year.

Chief Financial Officer Shanika Clay has provided updates to the FY22 budget planning process at each of the board meetings in 2021, and the April board meeting will include adoption of the tentative budget for the upcoming school year, including the use of local, state, and federal funding mechanisms to support district efforts.

Through conversations with the community and subsequent planning sessions, the board is poised to take the positive financial outlook from the improving local economy along with the state’s improved financial picture to present a stable FY22 budget.

To reinforce their commitment in the belief that effective teachers, leaders, and staff produce excellent results, the board will consider increasing current salary scales for all employees in the district by one percent and honoring the step increase of the salary schedule.  In combination, these two investments in competitive salary will result in salary increases for employees ranging from one to three percent compared to the previous year.

“The board recognizes that the best investment they can make in a child’s education is in attracting and retaining the best employees in the profession,” said Clay. 

In addition to investing in employees, there are other key commitments the board will consider as they move to adopt the FY22 budget.  Support for mobile hotspots for students without internet access, summer learning opportunities and academic recovery, and addressing the potential long-term impacts the pandemic has had on student health and wellness will be accomplished.

With the challenges that have emerged during the past year, a stronger emphasis will also be given to supporting the growing mental health, social, and emotional needs of young people. 

“We know that the pandemic and the way we have delivered an education to our students is drastically different than what students, families, and even teachers are accustomed to,” said Superintendent Davis.  “We will look to build an infrastructure of strong academics and focused opportunities for our schools and our teachers as we transition to a post-pandemic school environment, which will be equally as important in meeting the growing mental, emotional, academic, and physical health needs for our school community.”

The FY22 tentative budget will be discussed and adopted at the April 19 board meetings.  Community members can tune into the livestream of the regular meetings at 4pm and 7pm as well as a budget hearing at 6:30pm.  For more information on Henry County Schools, visit www.henry.k12.ga.us.

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