School board unhappy with plans to cut budget
by Lindsay Field
April 04, 2013 12:03 AM | 7041 views | 38 38 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Randy Scamihorn
Randy Scamihorn
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It looks like the Cobb County School District staff will be heading back to the drawing board to come up with more recommendations to fix next year’s budget woes.

“This is not a list as a board member that I have to buy in with,” said Board Chair Randy Scamihorn, who represents northwest Cobb.

The board met for almost four hours Wednesday to debate how to cover an $86.4 million shortfall in the 2014 budget.

Chief Financial Officer Brad Johnson presented 13 options to the group last month, but there was not an in-depth discussion.

“The board will have to confront this someday, somehow, because there’s just no new revenue coming in … it’s very difficult,” he said.

Some recommended cuts included using $22.2 million from the district’s reserve fund, introducing more online classes and saving $15.5 million by implementing five furlough days and eliminating five instructional days.

The board was not pleased with his recommendations, and they asked Johnson and his staff to be more creative with finding places to cut by talking to all the department heads.

“It just is not acceptable,” north Cobb’s Kathleen Angelucci said. “There has to be something else that we can do.”

Scamihorn asked that they look at things like travel expenses, suspending staff training for a year, benchmark testing or whether or not they need to purchase textbooks every single year.

“I don’t see input from the entire staff in this budget,” he said. “Be more creative on our options.”

David Banks, who represents northeast Cobb, said they need to be more “firmly focused” on the classroom in looking at budget cuts.

Vice Chair Brad Wheeler agreed.

“There are a lot of little things we can probably bundle together to be the big things,” he said.

Board member Scott Sweeney, who represents east Cobb, took issue with that.

“We are trying to create certainty in an uncertain world,” he said.

Sweeney said the reserve fund can’t be a shock absorber and that the budget forecasts do and will continue to look worse and worse every year.

“We have to figure out how we are going to essentially deliver the level of education that is expected in this county with the flat revenue stream or develop another revenue model,” Sweeney said. “Public education funding is under assault.”

David Morgan, who represents southwest Cobb, recommended the district get more feedback from the public in some form or fashion and say what alternatives there are if certain cuts aren’t made.

“We need to do a better job of explaining this,” he said. “Lay out the solutions, the silver bullets. Give me some proof positive.”

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said some alternatives could include increasing the millage rate, dipping further into reserves, running out of money or looking at massive layoffs the following school year.

He said he’d bring back more recommendations in two weeks when the board meets for its monthly work session on April 17.

The board also decided to submit any further questions about specific cuts to the administrative staff, in writing.

“The clocks are ticking … submit your questions as soon as possible,” Hinojosa said.

A little good news

Johnson said the district has received $8.8 million in state funding over what it had anticipated for their full-time student enrollment numbers from fiscal 2013, and that can be put toward any of the proposed cuts.

Hinojosa also told the board that he would be removing his recommended cut to do away with bus services for magnet schools and the Boys and Girls Club, which would have saved the district $1 million next school year.

Angelucci said that of all the cuts proposed, this was the only one she received any complaints about since the initial budget meeting.

“We talk about how important it is to educate our students to the best of our ability,” she said. “If that were to be cut, it would be annihilating programs that we are recognized for … goes against what we are here for.”

Johnson anticipates the board approving the final budget sometime in mid-May, but the state doesn’t require approval until June 30.
Comments
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alenalarais@gmail.com
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May 18, 2013
First start by cutting jobs in the ESOL Programs. I have first hand experience with this department, we enrolled my kindergarten daughter in summer of 2012 at Tritt Elementary. Long story short my husband made mention of a Spanish class she took and before we knew it she was being tested for the ESOL program, they said because she could not pass a reading and writing test intended for 1st graders she was not proficient in English ( her only language)! We made a fuss, but in the end they refused to take the label away so we pulled her out of Cobb county schools. This is a well funded program, that wastes money on native English speakers. There are countless people I have spoken to whose child speaks and understands perfect English but are stuck with this label because its a money maker!
@@the 1st anonymous
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April 06, 2013
What planet are you from? $62.4 MILLION in lost revenue for ONE YEAR from senior citizens school tax exemption? You go do the math. Give or take, about 700,000 people live in Cobb County. The 2012 value of the tax digest for senior citizens is $3.3 billion is what you said? Okay. Let's be liberal here and say 500,000 people are seniors that get the exemption, which is far, far from the truth. $3.3 BILLION? We sure do have some hidden wealth somewhere in this county. Dude, if 500,000 seniors got an average exemption of $1,000 a year, which they do not, how does that even come close to $62.4 million in a year? That is being really generous and giving you something to make you look like you are not so stupid. $62.4 million in lost school tax exemption revenue in ONE YEAR from the senior citizens of Cobb County. What are you smoking?

Just Sayin'....
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April 05, 2013
The board has played "kick the can" with this issue for the last 4 years. We all suspected this day would come, but everyone danced around it and declared excess SPLOST funds rather than tackle the problem head on.

Hard choices will have to be made, and made soon. Glover Street should have across the board cuts, as should all non-teaching positions throughout the district. A few schools probably need to be closed. The millage is going to have to be increased. No new hires....period. Outsource transportation. Outsource custodial services. Media centers should no longer be staffed with full-time people. PE staffs could be trimmed.

The sad part is that none of the above, all added together is enough. BUT....on the bright side....we can now build lots of new things because SPLOST passed....even though we cannot maintain them.
veteran teacher
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April 07, 2013
Outsourcing custodial services has not been effective in the last 2 schools I've taught in.

Media specialist are essential to our schools. Parents/ volunteers can be taught to help with check-out, but lessons and technology management are an intregal part of a media specialist task.

I've heard some people are up in arms about SPLOST, but SPLOST is providing new roofs, toliets,air/heat units, etc. that we can't afford with current bugdets. We'd really be up the creek without it.

Bteach1
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April 05, 2013
As a teacher in Cobb on the front lines, i have a proposition that would save a million dollars. Get rid of the EPS OR Supervisor position that exists in the special education/special student services department. There are manhy of these positions that make in upwards of 100k/year. I can honestly tell you that 75% of the time, the only thing the people in these positions are doing is following in teachers footsteps and making sure that we are doing our job. Are we not professionals that can handle our own worload. Stop treating us like we are 3rd graders that need to be constantly micromanaged.
Mad Mom
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April 05, 2013
I so agree. There are many positions within the CCSD that could and should be eliminated. Stop eliminating teachers and start eliminating central office staff as well as other non-essential supervisory positions. Do what is in the best interest of the students of Cobb County.
Turn the Dialog
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April 05, 2013
There's more pontificating in the comments below than this community can stand. You all seem to be experts, yet few offer any realistic solutions to close the complete budget gap.

Morgan's requested feedback - here's an opportunity.

PROBLEM - $86 million shortfall and requirement to deliver a balanced budget.

TASK - close the budget gap.

What are your specific solutions?

Increase Revenue?

* Senior exemption - not going to happen in the near or long-term

* Raise millage - its reported that the board is not willing to do this

* Borrow (i.e. credit card equivalent) - not exactly a conservative approach and funds would need to be paid within the current year

None of the above are likely to happen.

Decrease expenditures by $86 million or by some lesser number if you raid the reserve account;

Suppose you were to use $26 million of the reserve. You've still got a $60 million gap.

Where specifically do you propose to find all of the $60 million?

@@The First Anon
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April 05, 2013
The senior school tax exemption will never be repealed, so I am clueless as to why this conversation keeps coming up over and over again. Kind of like beating a dead horse.
Kennesaw Resident
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April 09, 2013
Isn't it sad though that this will not be put on the table. We are saddling these kids with the debt for Medicare, but won't ask seniors to help Cobb students get a better education to pay in the future for the benefits seniors are currently receiving.
barf bag
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April 04, 2013
It was more than a little funny to note that the superintendent seemed more concerned about his contract than addressing the real budget problem.

I thought I was going to throw up in the barf bag when the Super said (for the third time) that his contract needed to reflect the fact a dip deeper into the reserves.... Pretty clear to see his priorities.
Cobb School Advocate
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April 04, 2013
I watched the entire 4 hour Board Meeting ( preparing for medical procedure ) and conclude that the Cobb's cental office is "incompetent, does incomplete staff work, does not have a clue and the superintendent does not understand an 80M dollar problem, accoutabilty,reserves, nor how to run a school district and clearly nothing of CONSERVATIVE leadership !

But the Board lacks vision, management skills and problem solving experience/understanding and must have been asleep since January - What a mess for the students and citizens of Cobb ?
Senior Exemption
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April 04, 2013
Cobb's Senior Exemption needs to be addressed. This is a $63 million shortfall that is only going to get larger every year with Cobb's aging population of homeowners. Young people are no longer moving to Cobb, partly due to the fact, we are one of only a few counties that continue to have such drastic cuts annually. Marietta...no cuts, Gwinnett county...no furloughs, Fulton County....no furloughs, Cherokee does have furloughs pays more than Cobb. The board must vote to either eliminate the exemption for seniors or at least grandfather those already qualitified and eliminate for future seniors or raise the millage rate for those that actually pay the taxes. As cuts continue to go....so will go the quality of education in Cobb County. Teachers in Cobb are already paid lower than any metro area county.....you cannot continue to rest the cuts on their backs and expect to get a quality output. This is why surrounding counties are surpassing Cobb in test scores as well.
Reality Check
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April 04, 2013
The board of education has no control over the senior exemption.

Cobb's senior school tax exemption is written into the local legislation of Georgia's Constitution specific to Cobb County.

Bottom line - it will take a constitutional amendment to repeal or modify the exemption. It's quite doubtful that will ever happen since politicians would campaign on a promise to significantly raise property taxes for Cobb seniors, then gain support to place the question on a ballot.
@Senior Exemption
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April 04, 2013
100% school tax exemption for seniors in Gwinnett. Same for Marietta.

Maybe other districts manage their budgets better instead of on the backs of the teachers.

So seniors are causing the problem? Maybe it is caused by illegals having children, living several families to a dwelling and needing special services for children who do not speak English?

Seniors are not the problem - subsidizing the labor force for Cobb County developers and contractors is the problem.
anonymous
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April 04, 2013
The board met for almost four hours Wednesday to debate how to cover an $86.4 million shortfall in the 2014 budget. I can guarantee you the senior school tax exemption will not go away. Even if it did, the total amount is pennies on an $86.4 million shortfall. What you are asking is to demand seniors, many of which are on fixed incomes, to pay more money out of their already limited income. I wish everyone would realize this exemption is extremely small potatoes in the grand scheme of over $86 million. It wouldn't even put a dent in over $86 million. Not even a scratch.

anonymous
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April 04, 2013
The problem is not the income it's the spending. ESPLOST passage will increase the budget problems as it will not pay to maintain the projects it has already built not the projects on the current list. The budget will continue to bleed.
anonymous
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April 04, 2013
Please figure this out and quit posting about this. The only way the senior citizen school tax exemption can be repealed is by the Cobb legislative delegation. The school board and county commission CANNOT do it.

Again- I invite you to run for state senate or house yourself and carry this initiative.
@ the 1st anonymous
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April 04, 2013
Beg to differ with your comment that everyone should "realize this exemption is extremely small potatoes in the grand scheme of over $86 million. It wouldn't even put a dent in over $86 million. Not even a scratch."

It's hardly "small potatoes." According to the Cobb County Government, the 2012 value of the tax digest for senior citizens (i.e. 62 ) is $3.3 billion. Applying the 18.9 school tax millage to that valuation gives $62.4 million in revenue or, put another way, approximately 73% of the CCSD's budget shortfall.

While personally not in favor of repealing the exemption, it's important to know that if the Senior school tax exemption was repealed, it would make a very significant dent in the shortfall.

Most, if not all of Cobb's neighboring counties have some level of Senior school tax exemption. Some set the age at 65. Some also have income limits.
Pay Up Seniors
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April 09, 2013
Regardless of whether it would be addressed by the state legislators, every voter needs to realize that the senior exemption is a special interest deduction for a special interest population.
Just Wait
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April 04, 2013
Obviously the superintendent and staff cut into to many board members pet projects. Or it was a very smart move on his part to throw all the cuts onto the board.
Just a thought...
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April 04, 2013
With all of the new SPLOST projects being built, we continue to create expenses. These new projects should become PROFIT CENTERS and rented to become income-producing. New 9th grade center @ Harrison - make it an adult ed center that charges tuition, Lassiter Theater - rent it to churches, speakers, musicians, etc., astroturf fields - rent to local clubs or allow for renting for community events. Get creative and stop just SPENDING. These projects will need to be maintained just like the schools we can't afford to pay for.
anonymous
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April 04, 2013
schools currently rent space to churches and other organizations but I think they get to keep the money and spend it as they please. if that is the case, then their budgets should be reduced by the revenue
CCSD vs. Marietta
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April 04, 2013
Can someone please explain to me why Marietta City's budget is OK (no furlough days, no layoffs, no increase in class size) while CCSD's looks so bad (five furlough days, 295 positions eliminated, class size goes up again)? Why is MCS so much better than CCSD at budgeting???
anonymous
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April 05, 2013
ummmm, 7 schools versus over 100. Really?!?!
It's About Time
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April 04, 2013
Finally, a Chairman and Board majority that will actually stand up to the Supt. and the Glover St. Gang and tell them who is the boss. Kudos to Mr. Scamihorn for reminding the Supt. that the BOE is his boss, and that it's not the other way around. Back to the drawing board!
anonymous
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April 04, 2013
Here, here!
Good!
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April 04, 2013
The new BOE should be displeased with the cutback plans, which are just warmed over plates of "more of the same" served up by the entrenched central office educrats. Fewer teachers, even larger class sizes, still more furlough days. While the budget is literally being balanced on the backs of the already overburdened classroom teachers, the Supt. and Executive Cabinet continue to collect their recent pay raises with only minimal cuts to their central office staff.
Be Careful
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April 04, 2013
Absolutely, you do not need to purchase brand new text books every year. And I know how much text books cost.

But it saddens me that they talk about cutting class room hours, cutting teachers...etc.

What about the huge cost of the central office and all that staff.

Cut somewhere that won't effect the kids for God's sake.
Bubba Jones
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April 04, 2013
Well well well. Those 5,124 folks that out voted the rest passing Cobb's ESPLOT caused the all of us to have higher taxes should now be ashamed.

This ESPLOT was not for the schools it is a jobs program for Cobb. In the MDJ writers explained ESPLOT money was neither going to the teachers nor students yet voters made up their mind it was.

So, now we have to have school cutbacks, sad huh. Cobb County school system, use our ESPLOT for that which folks thought it was going for not for new building projects.

Folks, before you vote read where the money is going to be spent. Oh, by the way, before the vote Cobb county said they had unspent funds remaining from the previous SPLOT. Hum, why not use that money for schools.
To Bubba J.
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April 04, 2013
Q: What was your sales tax rate before the SPLOST IV vote?

A #1: 6%

What was your sales tax rate after the SPLOST IV vote?

A #2: 6%

Mission Impossible Challenge: Your mission should you decide to accept it is to inform us how 6% is higher than 6%.

Before the self-destruct mode kicks in...

1.) SPLOST can't be used to fund teacher salaries.

2.) The excess SPLOST funds were expended and used to balance the CCSD budget for 3 years.

DHK1
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April 04, 2013
(1) Send the Walrus, back to Texas.



(2) Vice Chair Brad Wheeler

(3) Board Chair Randy Scamihorn

SEND 3 AND 4 to Dekalb County



NC Parent
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April 04, 2013
Angelucci was one of the folks that shot down the laptop initiative years ago. If it had not had been shot down, the county would now be realizing 10s of millions in savings over old fashioned textbooks by this time.

I fully support cutting bus routes sending kids to non-resident schools.

The funny thing is - SPLOST just passed. It includes 3/4's of a BILLION dollars of NEW REVEVNUE and builds new schools and facilities that they don't have the budget and means to keep running. The way this county is run is ridiculous.

We don't have money but we are going to build fine arts buildings, astroturf every field in the county, build freshman academies, build a career center schools, bus kids from all around the county to non-resident schools, etc. Yet - we don't have the operating budget to keep what we have running.

The thing I find most insulting of all is the pro SPLOST folks were saying that splost would not cause the millage rate to increase, yet the MOMENT SPLOST passed - they have been floating around a millage rate increase. With such intellectually dishonest people running the county, I'm surprised we aren't worse off than we are now.
@ NC Parent
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April 04, 2013
Had SPLOST not passed,you'd be looking at far greater than an $86 million shortfall... more like $100 to $120 million.

You also must not have been watching the meeting yesterday where the superintendent made it clear that he has not heard a willingness by any board member to entertain a discussion about raising the millage rate.
ECMomof2
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April 04, 2013
Could not agree with you more NC Parent except the textbook issue. I think there is something about the printed page on paper over cd's, but there is no reason to adopt new textbooks they way the county does. How often do all the rules of grammar change?
@ NC
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April 04, 2013
10s of millions in textbook savings? You have lost your mind. Did you factor in monies that would have been wasted on batteries, replacement laptops due to obsolete, damaged and stolen laptops? No, you didn't. Slinging arrows at something you are so oblivious to demonstrates your lack of knowledge and intuitiveness. Get over yourself and educate yourself.
anonymous
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April 04, 2013
Just because books are electronic means they are that much cheaper. You still have to pay to get access and at the end of the time frame the go away. You can use a book for a long time past 6 years if needed and no need for power.
NC Parent
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April 04, 2013
Just take a look at the studies that have been done. The savings are REAL. Take a look an Henrico County VA.
Kennesaw Resident
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April 12, 2013
@ NC Parent, you ARE right! The way this county is run is ridiculous.
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