The last quarter of 2008 has been a time of economic upheaval for our nation and the state of Georgia. Bank failures, the mortgage crisis, corporate takeovers, and governmental rescues dominated the headlines as the seemingly endless bad financial news kept coming.
Gwinnett County Public Schools, like the rest of the state and nation, has felt the impact hit home. It may be spring before we know the full extent of the country”s economic challenges on our operating and capital budgets. We started the 2009 fiscal year on July 1 with what I called "one of our best budgets in recent years" in terms of state funding. Now, that optimism has been replaced with the reality that we are not likely to receive the level of state funding we had anticipated. At the same time, Gwinnett”s revenue from the penny sales tax that voters approved to fund new schools, classrooms, and technology improvements continues to be lower than expected. Adjustments in the building program may have to be made as a result of the flat revenue picture.
What could sound like a doom-and-gloom situation, however, is not as dire as it could have been. A long history of sound financial management and conservative budgeting for the current year are enabling the school system to weather this economic storm with the least possible impact on teaching and learning. We are able to fund the teachers and support staff our schools need, there are no cutbacks in instructional materials or services, and we expect to end the year with a respectable fund balance, which is essential to our present and future economic stability. We are spending our dollars wisely, consistently using best business practices to guide our operations and financial management.
You would expect no less from a school district that received a triple-A rating on its bonds from both Moody”s Investor Services and Standard and Poor”s. That rare distinction allowed us to successfully sell $500 million in general obligation bonds this summer at a very favorable rate in a difficult economic climate.
The Gwinnett County Board of Education and district staff take seriously our obligation to be responsible financial stewards of the tax dollars that support our schools. In times such as these, that proven stewardship should bring welcomed reassurance to taxpayers throughout Gwinnett County.