The Lumpkin County School System is committed to providing a first- class education despite facing difficult financial challenges. The FY21 budget includes significant state funding cuts bringing the LCSS operating budget from $40,144,902 in FY20 to $38,470,985 in FY21.
“When preparing for this budget year, our school board remained steadfast in their desire to avoid shifting state cuts to local taxpayers. While dealing with unprecedented challenges such as business shut downs, quarantines, and unemployment, we knew our local taxpayers could not support a tax increase. Since most of our funds are committed to people, programs, and services which directly impact students, identifying ways to make significant cuts was difficult. We worked diligently to identify ways to reduce costs and ultimately approve a budget which is extremely tight. This has been a challenging process, but I am proud of the work our system administrators and school board members put forth to plan every dollar in this budget cycle. We have very little discretionary funds and will operate with extreme frugality this year.” -Superintendent Rob Brown
General School System Budget Information
In Lumpkin County, over 85% of every dollar spent is used to serve the academic needs of children. The other 15% covers operational (utilities & maintenance) and transportation (bus drivers, bus maintenance, & fuel) costs, which are critical services needed to meet the needs of students.
FY20 Expenditures by >#/b###
History of School Millage Rates and Values
Lumpkin County experienced a significant decline in the value of a school mill from $1.2 million per mill in 2008 to $782,382 in 2016. Since then, the value of a mill has slowly increased and is currently at $916,834 in 2020.
Lumpkin County Schools – Millage History
Significant Changes in the FY20 Budget
Due to the anticipated impact of COVID-19, state funding for Lumpkin County Schools dropped 11.3% in FY21. This total cut resulted in $2.46 million of less funding from state sources. However, the federal CARES Act replenished a portion of those funds and added back $712,000 for the FY21 budget cycle. In all, local funds account for 41.5% of the FY21 budget with 51.3% provided by the state and 7.2% from federal sources.
Additional Costs included in the FY21 budget
· Certificate Upgrades $120,000
· Step Raises $295,000
Estimated cuts made to the FY21 budget
· Reduction in staff (12 positions) $947,223
· Reduction in programming $342,000
· Reduction in supply funds $225,000
· Reduction in contracted services $175,000
Total Budget Cuts $1,689,223
ESPLOST and Capital Projects
In November 2013 and again in June 2020, the voters of Lumpkin County supported the school system’s ongoing need for capital improvements by approving ESPLOST 5 & 6. The Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax adds 1¢ to each dollar spent in Lumpkin County and ensures that weekend visitors, festival attendees, and college students help fund the capital needs of LC Schools.
This tax lessens the financial burden on local taxpayers.
Recent projects / purchases utilizing ESPLOST funds include:
· Purchase of safety supplies regarding COVID-19
· Purchase of safety equipment
· Purchase of security cameras
· Construction of new tennis courts
· Construction of multi-purpose facility (Tribe House)
· Construction of JROTC/Science
· Improvements to LCHS Media Center and Auditorium
· Purchase of computers / chromebooks
· Purchase of classroom camera systems
· Purchase of virtual reality equipment
· Purchase of interactive instructional panels
· Purchase of activity buses
· Purchase of new school buses
· Payments of repairs and equipment replacements in schools
· Purchase of land
Upcoming projects utilizing ESPLOST funds include:
· Construction of a new Lumpkin County Elementary School
· Purchase of School Buses
· HVAC / Roof renovation at Lumpkin County High School
· Interior renovations at Lumpkin County High School
· Renovations and modifications to Blackburn Elementary School
· Additional parking at Long Branch Elementary School
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Are my school taxes going up?
This answer depends on your property and the assessed value of that property. For the 2020-2021 school year, the Lumpkin County Board of Education accepted the “roll-back” millage rate which does not qualify as a tax increase. By doing so, this action left the school system collecting the same school taxes from property owners as in the previous year.
School taxes are determined based on two factors: 1) Property value as assessed by the Tax Assessor and 2) Millage Rates as approved by the Board of Education. So if the property value increases and the school millage rate remains the same, the property owner would pay more in school taxes. If the property value remains the same but school millage rates increase, the property owner would again pay more school taxes.
Since the school board did NOT increase your school millage rate for FY21, any increase in school property taxes this year was due to an increase in your property’s assessed value.
2) How do current local tax collections in Lumpkin County compare to previous years?
Lumpkin County Schools / Taxes Levied
3) Where does the money come from to pay for education in Lumpkin County?
School districts in Georgia receive money from local, state, and federal sources. The amount of money from each source varies from one district to another and from one year to the next. For FY21, LCS anticipates the following funding proportion:
4) Why do we spend money on athletics & extra-curricular programs?
In Lumpkin County Schools, we value the life experiences our students receive in fine arts, career-technical fields, and athletics. Programs such as band, chorus, drama, FFA, Skills USA, and the array of other offerings we provide play a significant role in student development. We believe these experiences help build character, encourage discipline, instill a strong work ethic, and demonstrate how to function as a member of a team. Each of these qualities will help create well-rounded adults who will later contribute to a productive society. In addition, research suggests that students involved in one or more extra-curricular activities are much more likely to graduate from high school.
5) Why compare Lumpkin school finance data with other school systems?
Our hope is to recruit/retain the best educators available to provide the highest quality education possible in Lumpkin County. We believe that when top-notch educators have the resources they need, students will be more successful. We must remain mindful of the financial resources our neighboring districts have to compensate their employees and to provide for their students. Furthermore, it is important for us to be cognizant of spending patterns in other districts to ensure we are fiscally responsible. We pride ourselves in getting the most from each dollar spent in our schools. In many areas, we outpace our neighbors while spending much less per student. We have much to be proud of in Lumpkin County.
6) How do per-student expenditures in Lumpkin County compare to those of similar North Georgia districts?
Based on the most recent data available from the Georgia Department of Education, LCS spends less money per student than almost every district in North Georgia. Despite lower spending, our schools continue to outperform many other districts on student achievement indicators (Ex. graduation rate, SAT/ACT scores).
Most Recent Data Available: Student Expenditures
7) What factors influence school system revenues?
School system revenues are impacted by several factors at the local, state, and federal levels. At the local level, the tax digest changes from year to year based on factors such as new construction, property value assessments, and tax exemptions. As new construction is added or property values increase, the digest goes up. As tax exemptions go up or property values decrease, the digest goes down.
School system revenues are impacted at the state level during the state budgeting process which is completed each year by legislators and the Governor. When state revenues are negatively impacted such as they were in 2020, state-wide budget cuts are implemented. Though these cuts are unavoidable, the impact to local school system budgets is often dire.
A small portion of our annual budget comes from federal sources, and these funds are critical to our success. Because these funds are regulated under federal guidelines, they remain fairly consistent from year to year. The money earned in federal programs is determined by the specific needs of students served in the school system.
8) How do per-student revenues in Lumpkin County compare to those of similar North Georgia districts?
LCS generates the smallest operating revenue per student of any district in our geographic area. In fact, Lumpkin collects $1315 less in operating revenue per student than the $10,601 average for similar districts in our area.
Most Recent Data Available: Student Revenue
9) Why are revenues and expenditures not equal? Where do the excess funds go if expenditures are lower than revenues or where do the excess funds come from if expenditures are higher than revenues?
Having an exact balance between expenditures and revenues is nearly impossible for any school system. Although we plan balanced budgets each year in Lumpkin County, budgets are based on estimations for revenues and expenditures. A balanced budget means we plan to spend our anticipated revenues for that fiscal year without utilizing reserve funds.
When school systems collect more revenue than expenditures, the excess is banked into a reserve fund. When systems collect fewer funds than they must spend, they use reserve funds to cover the shortfall. State auditors recommend that school systems maintain 15% of their annual budget in fund reserve, but LCS operates with approximately 5-7% of our annual budget in reserve. Fund reserve can be increased in two ways: reduce expenditures or raise taxes. Since we have significantly cut expenditures already this year, our school board opted to operate with fewer reserves in lieu of raising taxes.
10) What is a Tax Anticipation Note (TAN) and why do we use this in Lumpkin County?
A TAN is a loan offered for school systems to bridge financial needs until the local tax commissioner collects taxes from property owners. Since the school year begins well before taxes are due, school systems have two options to cover this time frame. They can either build up a large fund reserve (savings account) to cover costs while waiting for tax monies to be collected OR they can borrow the money for a short time.
In Lumpkin County, we utilized the TAN option in FY20 and FY21. This option allowed us to cover the costs of educating children as we awaited tax collections while paying extremely low interest rates to a local bank.
11) Do the local tax exemptions impact school finances?
Simply put, yes. Any tax exemption has an impact on the overall tax base for the county and shifts the tax burden to those who are not exempt. We have several tax exemptions in Lumpkin County with land conservation and senior exemptions being the largest. These exemptions were voted on locally and/or approved through state/local legislation.
LCSS does not have the capacity to change exemptions; nor do we begrudge anyone who benefits from them. However, exemptions directly impact school finances in that the state does not recognize locally approved exemptions when withholding the local 5-mill share from funding. In essence, the state withholds the value set for all properties—but without regard for which properties are actually paying the taxes. And non-exempt taxpayers must then assume the difference.
12) Who can I call if I have questions about school system finances?
Call or email our Chief Financial Officer or our Superintendent. We will gladly answer your questions!
Mr. Shannon Christian – Chief Financial Officer – 706-864-3611
Dr. Rob Brown – Superintendent – 706-864-3611