Walker County and Chickamauga school systems are moving toward setting their budgets for the 2020-21 academic year.

After the coronavirus sidelined the state legislature for three months, the General Assembly resumed June 15; meanwhile, Gov. Brian Kemp advised state agencies and agencies that are partially state-funded, including public schools, to prepare for cuts of at least 11% to their budgets for the upcoming year.

The Chickamauga Board of Education hopes to receive state allotments within the next week and expects, with the anticipated 11% cut, to absorb an estimated loss of $1 million in state revenue, Chickamauga City Schools Superintendent Melody Day said June 19.

“By being good stewards of resources, the fund balance that has slowly been built back up since the last financial crisis can be used to offset some of the cuts,” Day said. “Unfortunately, even that must be used conservatively since there is no way to know how long before the economy fully recovers.”

Approximately 85% of the Chickamauga system’s budget is personnel-related, primarily salaries and benefits, she said, adding that the board has recommended holding the Chickamauga system’s millage (poperty tax) rate at 14.25 mills.

“At this point, the State Department of Education has not released QBE (Quality Basic Education) allotments for next year,” said Rachel Elliott, financial services director for the Walker school system.

“An 11% decrease in QBE funding may vary from school district to school district when the allocation is distributed based on the state formula,” Elliott said. “At some districts it could be more than 11% and at others it could be less than 11% change in funding.”

“We hope to have firm numbers from the state soon,” she explained.

Walker County Department of Education will hold a budget work session on Thursday, June 25, at 6 p.m. at the Walker County Board of Education Building, 201 S. Duke St., LaFayette, for the purpose of discussing the upcoming 2021 budget.

Public budget hearings will be held July 14 at 5 p.m. at the Advancing Education Center, 925 Osburn Road, Chickamauga, and July 20 at 5 p.m. at the Walker County Department of Education in LaFayette.

Walker schools will make a tentative budget available prior to the public meetings, and the millage rate will be determined as part of the budget process.

Elliott said the Walker school system will consider using a live stream for the public meetings.

The Chickamauga City School System’s FY 2021 proposed budget will be presented at the July board meeting, and the dates and times for the public meetings will be set, Day said.

The proposed budget and public meeting information for Chickamauga City Schools will be posted to the system website, and the public meeting information will be advertised in the paper, she said.

Catherine Edgemon is assistant editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and the Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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