Over-spending spurs policy change talk
by Lindsay Field
July 26, 2013 01:00 AM | 5060 views | 10 10 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb County School Board <br> Staff/file
Cobb County School Board
Staff/file
slideshow
MARIETTA — After exceeding its budget for training and travel to education conferences, the Cobb Board of Education is considering a policy change that would provide additional oversight over such trips.

Board members varied in the amount of trips they cost the district last year, from David Morgan, who billed the district nothing, to Scott Sweeney, who apent $4,541.68 for trips to Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Board members Kathleen Angelucci and Tim Stultz have suggested three changes to the policy governing board member “development opportunities,” which outlines training and legal requirements for the elected officials.

One suggestion includes the board voting on the amount of reimbursements the group as a whole will expend annually on these trips. Another includes reporting back to the board what members learn at conferences or events that are not required.

In fiscal 2013, which spanned July 1, 2012 to June 30, the board allotted itself $11,000 for travel and training, a budget it exceeded by $1,289.19.

“It was my understanding within the policy that board members are paid or reimbursed for attendance at required training, not picking and choosing,” Angelucci said Wednesday. “Just because there’s $10,000, doesn’t mean that we have to use it and especially when we are talking about the financial times that we find ourselves in right now.”

Angelucci said it’s fiscally irresponsible and sets a “bad, bad precedent” for the board to spend more than its budget.

“This doesn’t preclude you from going anywhere, but go on your own dime,” she told board colleagues.

David Banks, whose training and travel last year totaled $4,447.51 in expenses and included attending conferences in San Diego and Savannah, doesn’t agree with the changes.

“To me, it’s not necessary,” Banks said. “We are elected officials. We aren’t children. One board member can’t tell another board member what to do.”

Banks said he welcomes board members to ask him about what he’s learned while at trainings like the $920 National School Boards Association Conference he went to in San Diego in April.

“I don’t see a need for this change at all,” Banks said. “This (budget) hasn’t been abused.”

The California conference was the second national conference Banks has attended since joining the board in 2008. He went to Boston in 2012.

“You almost need to go personally to see what all is available, but there are several hundred sessions that are available to you when you’re there,” he said. “This year I was very interested in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) programs that other school districts are implementing and some of the vendor promotions.”

Banks said he is considering attending the same national session in 2014 in New Orleans.

When board members travel they receive a per diem amount for food each day. Banks said that is around $36. They are also allowed to turn in any travel and registration receipts for reimbursement.

For the San Diego conference, his travel expenses were $1,989.95 and he was reimbursed $1,143.55.

Other costs expended by the board include:

• Board Chair Randy Scamihorn: Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) New Board Member Orientation and Conference, $605; GSBA Board Chair Workshop, Athens, $210; GSBA Conference, Savannah, $630

• Vice Chair Brad Wheeler: GSBA New Board Member Orientation, $295

• Angelucci: GSBA School Law and Annual Conference, Atlanta, $520

• Banks: GSBA School Law and Annual Conference, $520; NSBA Conference, San Diego, $2,909.95; GSBA Conference, $1,017.56

• Stultz: GSBA School Law and Annual Conference, $520

• Scott Sweeney: GSBA School Law and Annual Conference, $520; 2012 Opportunity Fairfax Strategic Leadership Conference in Virginia, $2,500; and Federal Relations Network Conference in Washington, D.C., $2,041.68.

The board failed to reach consensus on how to word a policy change, so Stultz and Angelucci asked that a vote be postponed until August.

Comments
(10)
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Strange Daze
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July 28, 2013
CCSD should also look to see the expenses occurred in the subject division areas. According to the Georgia Department of Audits, one Supervisor spent $28,630, 000 over a four-year period. Another in the same division spent $26, 260.000 over the same period! Those expenses would pay salaries for teachers! <www.audits.ga.gov
Just Sayin'......
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July 26, 2013
It appears that one board member spent almost half of the total. Really, Mr. Sweeney needed that much extra help?
eCob Dad of 3
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July 26, 2013
Once again Bank's arrogance shines. "We're not children" he says. If I ran my business and exceeded my budget by 12% I'd have some very serious questions to answer to my boss. Apparently, he doesn't like being held accountable but then again why should he we're the fools who re-elected him after his past shenannigans. Shame on us. These trips sound like boondoggles and if there's no value being reaped from them the board should not be going. It definitely sends the wrong message to the teachers who are consistently being asked to do more with less. Apparently, that perception is as lost on Mr. Banks as its lost on our politicians in Washington.
anonymous
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July 26, 2013
After watching several board meetings, it seems like a few board members could use additional training.
Questionable at best
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July 26, 2013
I truly believe these conferences for principals and AP's are more questionable. We have 16 school administrators that spent over $ 2,000 and few over $3,000 for travel reimbursement. I would love to know if any of that, at all, truly changed something within their schools? Probably not! CCSD is never going to be able to pay its most important employees which are the teachers. With out teachers, you don't have schools and learning. I have not heard about the board meeting with Conn County Board to discuss the property taxes and the senior exemption which needs to change. I have not heard about the board meeting with Cobb legislators to come up with a plan on how we should pay our teachers. Something needs to change because we are losing great teachers and administrators to other counties. The ship is sinking and this discussion should have been about helping the actual people who matter....the teachers! It appears to me that Sweeney and Banks are the issue. If they are going to be reimbursed and bring nothing back that makes a difference in board business, they should not be going at taxpayers expense. PERIOD!
anonymous
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July 26, 2013
Quit continually whining about teachers. It is that way in every single profession, business, government entity, and fill in the other blanks. Since when did the person that dry cleans your clothes get paid more than the owner of the dry cleaner business? Since when did a day care worker get paid more than the day care supervisor? Since when did a secretary get paid more than their boss? It is always the people that do the actual work that get paid the least. Teachers are no exception, so quit harping on it. And quit harping on the senior exemption. That isn't going anywhere, so quit wasting your breath. There is no need for a mayday; education isn't going anywhere either. If teachers leave, there are many more getting trained as we speak to take their place.
rjsnh
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July 26, 2013
It is outrageous that the board would vote to increase class sizes AND reduce pay for teachers while at the same time OVERSPENDING on their on travel expenses....this board's motto must be "there is no interest like self interest" or "self service over public service". My voting motto will be "turnover not tenure..."
Dean J
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July 26, 2013
Folks it is time to Vote these children out.
Not a problem
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July 26, 2013
If the Cobb education board overspent their travel budget, it is no problem. Simply find something in the property tax based budget that qualifies for SPLOST funding, transfer that item to the SPLOST budget, sha-ZAM, there you go, all is paid for and the SPLOST money only paid for SPLOST eligible items.

Whenever that shell game finally runs out of shells, then we will have a problem. Of course that problem will be solved by expanding the list of items SPLOST will pay for. How about 17 new police cars for the police? SURE why not! That sounds like it qualifies, right? They work at the schools. Hmm, so do principals and lunch ladies. I bet they would like new cars as well. The lunch lady might work at more than one school occasionally, and dang it, the kids are HUNGRY!
noseriously
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July 26, 2013
Or pay the speaker to come to the whole board on a Saturday for about 10% of the whole budget. Aint hard guys. Look at Marietta .......and they reduced taxes.
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