Georgia system regents

ATLANTA - The University System of Georgia Board of Regents signed off Wednesday, July 1, on a fiscal 2021 budget that includes $2.3 billion in state funds.

The regents got their marching orders last week (week of June 21) when the General Assembly adopted a $25.9 billion state budget that cuts spending across the board by 10%. For the university system, that represents a reduction of $278 million from last year’s spending plan.

The damage could have been worse. When the coronavirus pandemic hit Georgia in March, prompting shelter-in-place orders that forced businesses to close and lay off employees, Gov. Brian Kemp and legislative leaders told state agency heads to prepare to cut their budgets by 14%.

But that was revised downward subsequently to 11% and then 10% when reports from the Georgia Department of Revenue showed the downturn in the economy was not affecting state tax revenues as much as had been anticipated.

“That gives us a little more flexibility … going into fiscal ’21,” university system Chancellor Steve Wrigley told the regents before Wednesday’s (July 1) vote.

As a result of the lowering of the spending reduction target, the legislature restored $78 million to the system’s budget, enough to avoid furloughing any of the system’s 55,000 employees. In May, the regents authorized either four or eight furlough days for most employees, depending on their salary level.

Lawmakers also appropriated $3.2 million to fully fund the Georgia Public Library System’s materials grants program. The grants allow the state’s libraries, particularly in rural communities, to buy books, technology and other resources.

The university system budget also is being supported with more than $157 million in federal coronavirus relief funds.

The fiscal 2021 state budget took effect on Wednesday, July 1.

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