Cobb Schools’ finance chief will offer nearly 20 recommendations to resolve the district’s looming $86.4 million deficit at today’s school board meeting.
Among the possibilities board members will have to consider is that of increased class sizes.
The request for more options to resolve the budget woes was a clear message sent by board members at a budget meeting earlier this month.
“We listened to all the board members and will bring back more options and have made some adjustments,” said Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. “We will give them a bigger view and let them make some decisions.”
The board was originally looking at 13 separate ways to fix the budget, including cuts to salary increases, furlough days, bus services and more.
“We eliminated a few of the 13 and added a few,” Hinojosa said. “There are between 15 and 18, and then a lot more are listed, but we aren’t recommending them.”
Cobb’s chief financial officer, Brad Johnson, said his staff has worked hard to exhaust every idea they have to bring before the board.
“All of the cuts are going to be difficult, but they’ll know what’s out there after this meeting,” he said. “I think that when they see our list, they’ll know that we really scanned our budget.”
Johnson said some of the new recommended cuts were not brought forth before because his staff didn’t believe the board would want to make those cuts.
“Everything is an option, but that doesn’t mean they are going to like what we have,” Johnson said. “It’s just a difficult process … a matter of looking at ideas and prioritizing them.”
Class sizes going up?
Johnson declined on Tuesday to give details of what he’ll recommend at today’s meeting but did speak about the possibility of class sizes going up.
Johnson said Deputy Superintendent Cheryl Hungerford is working on the master schedule for each school to make sure they are more efficient with their teacher allotments.
“She said it could impact the classroom by two to three students,” he said.
Johnson said any increases above that level would require the district to apply for a waiver from the state, but he does not know the specifics in that application process.
Board Vice Chair Brad Wheeler, who participated in an agenda prep meeting with the district staff before spring break, said he believed Johnson’s staff and Hinojosa have taken a good second look at the options.
“We will see some things, but I’m not sure if that will satisfy the board or not,” he said.
He didn’t outline the new recommendations either but quashed a rumor that class sizes could increase by five to 10 students.
“I don’t see any direction from a board member who wants to increase class sizes,” Wheeler said. “We want to try and protect the classroom.”
And if it was recommended to up classes by that many students, he said it would be unacceptable.
“I would ask (the district staff) to go back and try to find something else,” he said.
The board is expected to approve the tentative budget at its April 25 meeting but Johnson said they could still make changes up until the final approval, which must be done no later than June 30, according to the state.
More from the superintendent
The board will take a look today at the superintendent surveys sent out to students, parents, faculty members and taxpayers earlier this year.
Phillip Downs with Kerr & Downs Research in Tallahassee, Fla., will explain how he did the survey and show results.
Hinojosa said by the end of the month he anticipates the board determining how they will use the survey results and ask them to set up some specific targets for his annual evaluation.
In Hinojosa’s legislative update, he will recap what did or did not happen during this past session at the state Capitol.
“It was a quiet session for education,” he said. “The biggest, most impactful bill passed was the teacher evaluation piece, but Cobb will not have to face that until next year.”
Some districts are piloting the teacher evaluation forms, like Marietta City Schools, but Cobb will not implement it until the 2014-2015 school year.
“A lot of people have been concerned about it, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear at a superintendents’ meeting that they were critical of paperwork and the time it took, but positive that it was the right thing to do and will help improve instruction,” he said.
Chris Ragsdale, deputy superintendent for operations, said he will outline how the district will spend SPLOST IV collections after they begin Jan. 1, 2014.
“It’s a plan of how much money we’re going to spend in each category each year,” he said.
One category includes when they will pay for new replacement facilities.
Contracts up for approval
The board will take a look at the following contracts and vote on them during the April 25 night meeting:
- A $4.6 million contract to purchase math books for all Cobb students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
- A $2.9 million contract to purchase math books for all for high school students in ninth through 12th grades.
- A $695,000 contract with Matcon Construction Services of Tampa, Fla., to replace the playgrounds and surfacing at Ford, Harmony Leland, Mouth Bethel, Murdock and Timber Ridge elementary schools. It is $255,000, or 58 percent, over budget.
- A $672,000 contract with Diversified Construction of Georgia in Decatur for a renovations project at Kennesaw Elementary. It is $229,398, or 52 percent, over budget.
- A $486,900 contract with Construction Works of Lithonia for a renovations project at Bryant Elementary. It is $18,900, or 4 percent, over budget.
- A $420,000 contract with Reliant Construction Inc. of Alpharetta for a renovations project at Mouth Bethel Elementary. It is $14,723, or 3.6 percent, over budget.
- A $336,000 contract with Matcon Construction Services for painting and flooring at Kemp Elementary. It is $199,640, or 37 percent, under budget.
- A $326,633 contract with Baldwin Paving Co. of Marietta for a new entry driveway at Bryant Elementary. It is $158,633, or 95 percent, over budget.
The construction projects and book purchases will be paid for with SPLOST III funds.
- A $50,000 loan for band uniforms for Wheeler High School’s band. The loan will be repaid over the next five school years.