School officials to give board new budget solutions
by Lindsay Field
April 17, 2013 12:20 AM | 7573 views | 11 11 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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.


Comments-icon Post a Comment
PTA parent
April 18, 2013
Can someone tell us why the CCSD just paid for a "buzz-in" system for all CCSD Elementary schools??? The only people not to be let into the building are people who look "suspicious" or who show a gun, or are belligerent, etc.??? Didn't they have this at Sandy Hook? Did it prevent anything? Are we hiring new employees or putting this on our office staff that are already overworked? I've heard that volunteers aren't allowed to do this. Did CCSD do this just to make themself look better and at whose expense? The people who made this decision know nothing about how our schools are set up or function. How many teachers could we have paid salaries to with the money that was spent on this new project that just popped up since December???
April 18, 2013
Who is putting money in their pocket???

If a bid comes in over the engineer's estimate, then go back and take a hard look at the project and see if the engineer missed something and rebid it.

I can understand a contractor running into unforeseen problems such as bad soil or an unknown utility conflict, but how in the hell do you justify a 95% over run on a parking lot repaving that is basically overlayment???

Its real apparent the the school district has some project managers on their payroll that cannot manage projects and some design engineers that never do sit visits or any site exploration.

And why are the BOE members not questioning these over runs but just rubber stamping them?
April 18, 2013
They'll also need to budget for storing many of the $7.5 million in new math books that the teachers won't use, especially in grades K-5.
concerned parent
April 17, 2013
when will middle schools cut the band allotments? No need to bloat the music budgets with field trips, festivals, etc. when you can't fund the core classes! Extras are nice when you have the money, but in tough times, cut the extra fat--as well as defund the area supers!! Cobb has had so many superintendents over the last 30 years and nothing changes except layers between that office and the classrooms! What ever happened to site-based management?
Read My Lips
April 17, 2013
Read my lips, School Board.... DO NOT ACCEPT BIDS THAT ARE OVER BUDGET!!! I can't believe you'd even consider this. What's up with that? And if these high paid administrators can't come up with any other creative ideas other than furlough days and increasing class size - then they ALL SHOULD BE FIRED. Shame on them. We need to get rid of everyone whose job does not directly affect the students and if they do not have direct contact with the students. That should save a ton of dough. Come on new board - show us that we have some HOPE in our district. I am soooo discouraged right now...
George Middleton
April 17, 2013
Why in Heaven's name, are we voting on projects that are close to a half million dollars over budget? Either the scope of the work has been changed,or the orginal budget figure was BS, or we are being taken for fools. These all need to be put back out for re-bids. Including the one which is almost $ 200,000.00 under budget. That indicates somebody did not understand the scope of the work, or we are really going to get shoddy workmanship and second rate materials, probably using illegal alien labor.
Just Wait
April 17, 2013
Why are they approving contracts over budget? REBID!
Cobb Parent
April 17, 2013
You ain't just whistlin' dixie.

The Bryant Elementary paving is 95% OVER!?! How do they just approve this when they need to be holding the contractor responsible for such a huge overage.

Three others are at 58%, 52%, & 37%; this should not be happening on such a consistant pace.

Makes you wonder if they intentionally bid lower than the actual cost of the project knowing the county will just blindly approve the over budget request.
Never out of the box
April 17, 2013
What is wrong with these employees that are paid the highest salaries? The only solutions they come up with are cuts to teachers salaries and increasing class sizes. How about a 4 day school week which eliminates millions? How about cutting out vacation pay for administrators? How about getting rid of area superintendents and their secretaries? Sick of the most important people having to suffer!
Kennesaw Resident
April 17, 2013
@never out of box
April 18, 2013
How about you giving up your vacation pay? Do you want the added responsibility of reporting to the Superintendent foisted onto teachers and principals? Think, man... stop spouting ignorance without thinking it through.
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