Budget still splits school board; Tentative date to resolve $86.4M deficit pushed back
by Lindsay Field
April 23, 2013 12:00 AM | 5938 views | 20 20 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb County School Board members continue to be split on how they want to balance next year’s budget and resolve an expected $86.4 million deficit.

The group has pushed back the approval date for its tentative fiscal year 2014 budget from Thursday night to April 29.

The board met for nearly four hours Monday afternoon to debate a list of 50 possible recommendations — 18 that are definite options to fix the budget woes and the other 32 that are ideas for the board to consider.

Four of the members — Brad Wheeler, Randy Scamihorn, David Banks and Kathleen Angelucci — were adamant the budget changes not impact classroom size and teaching positions.

“As a board, we need to make decisions that are directed at the kids,” Wheeler said.

He recommended the district look at specific budget cuts like dipping further into the reserves, halting staff development and travel and moving central office personnel back into the schools.

“If you aren’t in the classroom, you’re vulnerable,” Wheeler said.

Scamihorn agreed but added more possibilities.

He suggested decreasing the recommended teaching position cuts from 226 to 195, increasing the administrative cuts from 24 to 34 and increasing personnel cuts in the central office from 12.5 to 16.

“That doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with the other (budget resolutions), but I’m trying to move forward here,” Scamihorn said.

On the other end of the spectrum were Scott Sweeney and David Morgan, who continue to ask the board to keep its eye on the district’s future.

“In good conscience, I can’t vote for a budget that is kicking the can down the road,” Morgan said. “We would be well served to look at items that aren’t one-time fixes.”

His recommendations to resolve the current and future budgets were to cut high-cost items, such as the salary step increase valued at $10 million, and saving the district about $6.8 million by looking at half-day kindergarten, a four-day school week and cutting 295 teaching positions and media paraprofessionals.

“I think our teachers, our taxpayers, all stakeholders, they deserve for us not only to make the hard decisions now but also project forward so that we can put ourselves in the best position possible in these very trying times,” he said.

Angelucci said she understood what Morgan was saying but indicated that nothing “out there” shows that the financial status of the country will continue as it has in recent years.

“We need to consider how it affects teachers in the long term. … Look at the bigger picture,” she said.

“But we need to deal with what is, not what will be,” Morgan responded.

Sweeney also said that until the district has “confidence in the numbers,” they should be “exceptionally” cautious.

An individual budget proposal

For the second time during this year’s budget talks, Banks presented his own version of the budget.

“Working on the budget is a trying experience,” he said before giving his line-by-line explanation of how he created the budget, which he developed alone and presented to the board Monday afternoon.

According to the budget Banks presented, the district would bring in about $823.4 million revenues for fiscal year 2014 and spend about $862.6 million, leaving a $39.2 million shortfall.

Chief Financial Officer Brad Johnson’s staff has estimated the district will bring in about $807.6 million in revenue and spend $894 million.

Banks’ budget also listed nine solutions to fix the deficit, including using a total of $24.7 million from the reserves, imposing five furlough days, eliminating five instructional days and adding 200 part-time employees.

Angelucci thanked Banks for his efforts.

“I want to thank Mr. Banks for trying to look at this in a different way,” she said. “I think that his aim is true, he’s trying to save teachers’ jobs ... because that affects our students in the classroom.”

Board members asked questions about Banks’ suggestions, but Johnson spent the most time trying to understand it.

“I don’t agree with this proposal. There is at least $20 million missing (from his budget figures),” Johnson said. “I have grave concerns about these numbers. I appeal to the board.”

Johnson also said that it’s hard to budget on the previous year’s budget like Banks has. He used numbers from the fiscal year 2012 financial report.

“Every year is in its own universe,” he said. “If I budget on last year … I might miss something.”

Johnson also said a number of times that the deficit continues to be $86.4 million, and while he thought Banks had some good comments, he warned the board to be careful.

Scamihorn said he agreed with Johnson’s worries and said he didn’t mean to challenge the chief financial officer’s department, but “sometimes the new guy can bring forward good ideas as well.”

Public response to possible cuts

Another topic the board talked about was in response to the numerous phone calls and emails they have received regarding what is being referred to as a “below the line” item, which has been defined as an idea but not an actual proposal for FY14.

Among Johnson’s 50 suggestions is a line item that cuts elementary through high school arts and music programs. This could save the district about $23.6 million in total.

“We did say that nothing is off the table. … This stimulated an outcry because in Cobb County, it’s something we would never touch,” Angelucci said.

She also asked why arts would be on the budget resolutions but not athletics, and Hinojosa said he would bring back the cost of potential athletics savings at the next budget meeting.

Scamihorn said he received that same number of emails and phone calls, but said there was a good reason for such an extensive list from the district.

“The intent was to have a laundry list to give us and the public choices,” he said.
Comments
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Bravo Cobb County
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April 24, 2013
Hmmm... 37:1 ration for classroom instruction. Politicians do a wonderful job using the political tool of breads and circuses. During election time the spew the rhetoric of holding teachers accountable and advocating 21st century education to meet the needs of the global economy by improving the rigor and expectations within the classes. Sounds great, but how do you meet the needs of 37 students within a 50 minute or even 90 minute time period. Safety becomes an issue in the science lab and teacher instruction degenerates into lecture hall style instruction. Sounds wonderful. Our newly established school system's agenda definitely will engender creativity and innovation similar to communist systems. I applaud Cobb County and the State of Georgia. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!
Educate my child
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April 23, 2013
Seriously? Considering 5 fulough days and shortened school year before touching a single dollar of band/music funding? Where are your minds?
what is education?
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April 23, 2013
Cut the sacred cow music and band supplements. They pull kids from classes more than athletics, and in middle school, there are no athletics, but plenty of festivals that keep kids out of classes.

FIVE FURLOUGH DAYS and NO music cuts??? What the heck is school for?

Of course it IS in the liberal playbook....dumb down the masses to stay in power. How about 10 less school days and 20 more band festivals?
anonymous
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April 26, 2013
Participation in music programs stastically results in students with higher GPAs it certainly does not "dumb down the masses."

Perhaps some of the festivals and extracurricular events could be limited but not the instructional time.

Class Impact
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April 23, 2013
"Four of the members — Brad Wheeler, Randy Scamihorn, David Banks and Kathleen Angelucci — were adamant the budget changes not impact classroom size and teaching positions."

THANK YOU! I hope they can follow through with this. Please make the reductions and cuts in positions that do not have daily contact with students. We need to do what is in the best interest of our kids. Larger class size is NOT the answer.
tired of it
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April 23, 2013
If you cut the excess principals in each school, the excess administration in each school and at the board of education you would probably save alot of money, the more money they have the more they spend! Look at the excess that the board gets whether it is through programs or whatever their is a lot that can be done but it wont be because they just love spending tax payers money
conflict of interest
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April 23, 2013
Hinojosa has a 250K salary, a company car, a fulltime driver and the good Lord knows what else. If the board dips into the funds to make up some of the difference in money, he doesnt get his bonus. That is a conflict of interest. No wonder he proposes getting rid of music and arts- so he can get his bonus.
anonymous
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April 23, 2013
It's obvious that Morgan's solutions would all impact our students the most while I don't see Scamihorn and Wheeler's solutions (mostly affecting the bureaucrats) as harming our students. Let's allow these new guys to continue to develop their ideas on where to cut...way to go, gentlemen.

Banks was the most coherant I've ever seen him yesterday, however the board must listen to the accountants who live in the world of reality. Banks had a point, but it wasn't enough to make a difference in the shortfall and his budget caused absolute panic among those with a grip on real numbers...it was that obvious. Banks' budget is nothing but a distraction. Get past it.

Angelucci was a champion for the teachers, imploring the district to pass along the step raises given by the state. She also pushed for fairness if programs were going to be cut.

Hinojosa is pulling an Obama sequestration flim flam, threatening to cut arts and music simply to get people to agree to other cuts that are not in the best interest of the students but his fifedom. Talk to any teacher and you will hear them wonder how the area superintendents and asst. supers get by with their six figure salaries, their CCSD paid cars and cell phones, when everyone knows all they do is lunch with their cronies. Please, look at these positions along with other non-classroom impacting cuts. And would someone ask Hinojosa why he has yet to get his Georgia car tag?
Jeff A. Taylor
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April 23, 2013
I can't really take any of this gloom-and-doom talk seriously so long as the Board refuses to contract out as many non-educational aspects of the district as it can.

Performance contracting is not complicated, but it does reduce headcount and hence the need for six-figure admins, which should tell you something.

This latest push-out seems designed to marshal forces for property tax hike proposal to be floated in the next few days. Cynically putting fine arts in the crosshairs will have achieved its purpose.

I'd love to be wrong, but I've seen this movie before.
not surprised
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April 23, 2013
When is the board going to start looking from the top down - salaries at the top are out of proportion to the cuts once again being asked of the teachers. With salaries being the majority of the budget, and the fact that teachers are once again possibly having furlough days and the calendar being cut,look at the top for cuts. Shoot - Obama even gave back some of his salary!!! One of the propsals that is extremely concerning is having 34-35 in 4th and 5th grade classrooms. Many of the classrooms cannot physically support that many bodies. This is also asking for more discipline issues.What a sad time for Cobb county....
Just Sayin'....
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April 23, 2013
Mr. Sweeney is suddenly careful to watch out for our dollars now that he managed to get the SPLOST vote through, and now that we will be adding more expense to the obvious depleted general fund. With regards to sports programs in the Cobb County Schools, it is pretty open knowledge that the only ones that are funded by the district are the big three...football, basketball and baseball. The others are already mainly supported by parents and fundraising. It is time for the big three to stand on their own as well.
checkyourfactspls
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April 23, 2013
What the heck are you on, 'Just Sayin'?! It is a well known FACT that no funds are allocated for athletics or fine arts. Not even the 'big 3.' And I hate to break it to you but it's football that bankrolls and sustains all of the sports at each school. If you have a successful football program, it helps with all of the sports teams at the schools.

The gate at football games goes to the general athletic fund. Same as baseball and basketball. Soccer and lacrosse charge admission but the gates are so poor that it's a drop in the bucket. Each of these sports are allowed to keep their concessions. Again, NO money to athletics, so try fact checking before posting.

A well rounded student is a successful adult. Academics, music, athletics...why does anyone want to begrudge these things. The majority of adults don't need countless hours and credits of science, math and history for their career path.
baseball board mom
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April 23, 2013
Baseball is not one of the big three - Football and Basketball are the only ones that receive any $$$ from the county. Everything our team has is purchased by the funds we bring in - heck we even pay our coaches stipends!!!
Cobb Citizen
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April 23, 2013
Raise the millage rate and stop the senior citizen tax exemptions! This is a travesty that we are cutting education!
Combination
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April 23, 2013
I think we need Scamihorn's suggestions and Morgan's for a 4 day work week. Get it together and not at the expense of the teachers and students!
A concerned parent
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April 23, 2013
I've volunteered at my child's LMC at school. How can Sweeny and Morgan justify dismissing the Media Paraprofessionals? Media specialists are required to teach lessons in all aspects of how to use the Library, research etc. The media parapros check out books, put away books, help assist with the lessons, work one on one with students (to find books, assist the students with computer activities,). Our school is a title one elementary school. The parapro here helps with all of the technology, news broadcasts, one on one reading with students, our LMS can not effectively do her job without her para. Media paras are often pulled to cover classes due to all the mandatory RTI teacher meetings. Explain to me please how a LMS can be in two places at one time? Teaching a class and assisting other students at the same time.
CCSD LMS
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April 23, 2013
The fact is I can't do it all and I won't. Circulation services, copier maintenance and technology support will be the big 3 on my list of priorities if my parapro goes away. Formal lessons will happen whenever possible. Forget the morning news broadcast, book battle teams, book fair and anything "extra." The school board can't pay me a full salary to do the one job I am supposed to do. Now it wants me to do 2 jobs for the price of one? Believe me when I say I am pounding pavement for a job in the private sector. This is nothing but madness and mayhem.
anonymous
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April 23, 2013
Absolutely disgusting. Arts and athletics even on the table about education in America with no mention of academics? The goal of a public education is not to be hired by the NFL or to play in the Symphony Orchestra. You need a laundry list of what to teach and what to fund? Laughable. No wonder why I guess that India has taken so many of our jobs and it is not about wages. Teachers today complain, complain, complain, and all they do is complain, and when you take most of their incomes and divide it up hourly, it is well above the national income average of people of equivalent education. Go ahead, you p-o-ed teachers. Add it up and count your blessings.
Huh?!
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April 23, 2013
Blessings? Are you on drugs?

Teaching is a job which has been historically frowned upon by nearly everyone. Are we now to believe it is some magical career that exceeds all others? Why? Because an economic downturn cost you the privileges which teachers have never known? So you now further denigrate teachers, only for a different reason.

Either join their ranks or press your lips together in silence.
Blessings?
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April 23, 2013
Blessings? What blessings. I've been with the school district for over 8 years. I'm making full time pay which is less than the poverty limit. I've had my wages cut for the last 7 years. Why do I stay? The students of course. I'm in the classroom daily helping your kids. It's called dedication to the future.
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