LAWRENCEVILLE -- For a decade, state officials have cut funding from a formulaic outlay for local schools.
So, even at a time when other agencies are continuing to tighten their belts, officials found reasons to celebrate when the newly approved 2014 state budget parceled out more money for schools.
"Great budget year for school systems," Rep. Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth, said in a recent press release.
Coleman, the chairman of the House Education Committee, said the legislature added more than $394 million plus an additional $244 million in bonds in the amendment for the 2013 budget and the fiscal year 2014 budget.
The budgets protected funding formulas from cuts while other state agencies required reductions, he added.
For Gwinnett County Public Schools, the state's largest system, that means an additional $22 million this year in equalization grants and another $10 million for projected enrollment increases.
Chief Financial Officer Rick Cost said the money doesn't fulfill the funding the county has lost out on in recent years.
"But it helps, and we are very appreciative of what we are getting through the state grants, he said.
The system has also faced $143 million less in revenues from local property tax, over the years of declining property values, with an estimated drop of $10 million this year. Federal funding has also decreased, while expenses, especially in health care, have grown, he added.
"It's a start, but there's still a long way to go," Cost said, adding that the system would still be owed $113 million if the quality basic education funding formula was made hole from the cuts of the past 10 years. "We're still very appreciative of the money we're getting next year."