Solving the equation: ‘Hard decisions’ will need to be made on how to fund Cobb schools
by Hannah Morgan
December 08, 2013 12:12 AM | 8163 views | 77 77 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kell High School math teacher David Morgan challenges his students to solve a warm-up Algebra problem as class begins. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and three board members said earlier this week that the state needs to contribute more to local school districts, while lawmakers say there is no more money to give.<br>Special to the MDJ/Doug Goodwin, Cobb County School District
Kell High School math teacher David Morgan challenges his students to solve a warm-up Algebra problem as class begins. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and three board members said earlier this week that the state needs to contribute more to local school districts, while lawmakers say there is no more money to give.
Special to the MDJ/Doug Goodwin, Cobb County School District
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Source: Georgia Department of Education
Source: Georgia Department of Education
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MARIETTA — The superintendent, school board and state lawmakers agree on one thing: The financial future for Cobb County schools is bleak. They just can’t agree on how to dig out of the budget hole.

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and three board members said Wednesday the state needs to contribute more to local school districts, while lawmakers say there is no more money to give.

Many Cobb residents say they don’t want to see their local property taxes raised and it is the responsibility for the local school board to budget wisely.

“It is the responsibility of our elected officials to live within their means,” said Judy Manning of Marietta, a former Cobb County teacher and state representative.

The Republican who represented west Cobb said it was not practical for the school board to rely on any more money from the state when the state is struggling to balance its budget as well.

“They have the amount of money the state has given them. … It’s their responsibility to make it work from that point forward,” Manning said.

Having nice schools and extra activities for students is beneficial to the students, but Manning thinks the board may have lost sight of what is absolutely necessary for teaching children such as paper, pencils and teachers.

“We would all love to have a blank check. It is not available for public education in the state of Georgia at this time,” she said.

David Chastain, a Libertarian from Acworth who has long warned about the school district’s spending habits, agreed that the school board has gotten into a habit of spending too much money in places it couldn’t afford, and the financial decisions of former school board members have added to this year’s budget woes.

For years, Chastain said, the school board has been mismanaging its money, spending more money on infrastructure than was needed and not supporting the students and teachers in classrooms.

“Our school board has been writing checks for years that our future school boards have not been able to cover,” Chastain said. “They always use this excuse ‘we don’t have enough money,’ but they have been entrusted with managing.”

Chastain said he has seen the school system grow by about 5,000 students in the last 10 years, but the amount of money the school board has devoted to building new schools and fields has far outpaced this relatively small growth.

When new structures get built, often using special-purpose sales tax dollars, they require more staff to maintain. That staff, in turn, must be paid out of the general fund, putting pressure on teaching positions.

“Teachers have lost their jobs because of the necessary commitments of general funds to support the infrastructure. We have lots of pretty buildings and lots of new technology, but are we able to keep the human capital we need in the classroom?” Chastain asked.

Money needed

The Cobb County School District is anticipating a budget deficit of $79 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Brad Johnson, the district chief financial officer, believes the district will not get enough from state funding and property taxes in the coming year to balance what it needs to spend on educating its roughly 108,000 students.

The school district adopted a 2013-14 budget of $856 million, and is looking at a budget for the 2014-15 school year of $897 million, about a 5 percent increase from last year, according the district’s website.

Those monies don’t include the fourth 1 percent special purpose local option sales tax for education that voters approved in March. That 5-year SPLOST is expected to collect $773.3 million in taxes of which $717.8 million will go to the Cobb School District.

What the board says

Hinojosa and three school board members say the solution to the deficit should come from the state, which has steadily reduced its funding for the county for the past 10 years in response to a distraught economy.

At a meeting with parents at East Side Elementary School in east Cobb on Wednesday, Hinojosa and board members Scott Sweeney, Randy Scamihorn and David Banks encouraged parents to put pressure on Gov. Nathan Deal and lawmakers to give the school system more money next year.

“Governor Deal needs to feel uncomfortable,” Sweeney told parents. “He needs to think the people of Cobb County will not support him unless he writes in additional funding for education.”

With decreasing revenues from property taxes and decreasing state funds, the district’s two sources of revenue have both hit a ceiling, which have resulted in budget deficits, said Johnson.

No easy solution

The school district is in need of money, but there is not a simple solution for the source of needed funding, many say. Either raise taxes, or make drastic cuts.

“This is a mess. This is a total mess,” said J.D. Van Brink, the chairman of the Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party.

Brink says the district needs to get even smarter at where it is spending its limited dollars, because raising taxes is not going to solve its problems.

“There is no easy answer,” he said.

As property values rise, and the economy slowly heals, it will get easier for the district to balance its budget, Van Brink said, but there is no solution in sight that does not include major cuts in spending.

“As revenues continue to grow with our economy, education funding will remain the governor’s focus. We can only spend what we have,” said Brian Robinson, Deal’s spokesman.

State might not have the answer

Cobb County isn’t the only district hurting for money.

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he was told on a recent listening tour that 25 to 30 of the state’s 180 school districts will be “financially insolvent” in the next 18 to 24 months.

“Educational funding is in trouble throughout the state of Georgia,” he said.

The economy just isn’t recovering at a rate fast enough to give school districts all the money they need, Tippins said. Education remains a priority at the Capitol, but there just isn’t enough money to go around, he said.

The state has cut spending in other areas in the last few years, Tippins said, citing the state’s parks that have been cut by about 20 percent and state patrol officers haven’t seen a raise in years. While school system funding looks bleak, Tippins advised parents to have perspective on the budget issues faced statewide.

Whether or not raising Cobb’s millage rate from 18.9 mills to the state maximum of 20 mills would solve some of the school’s budget woes, Tippins couldn’t say.

Each district across the state will have to decide whether or not raising taxes for an extra source of revenue is worth the burden on taxpayers in their district, Tippins said.

“They’ll have to weigh their revenue needs against the distaste of having to raise the millage rate,” he said. “It’s clearly a political decision they are going to have to make.”

According to information provided by Robinson, the state has spent more money on education each year since Deal began office in January 2011.

In 2011, the state spent nearly $7.07 billion on education, $7.08 billion in 2012 and $7.3 billion in 2013.

It is too soon to tell whether or not Cobb Schools can expect to see some money from the state this year to help close up its deficit, as Gov. Deal will release his annual budget to the Legislature during the second week of January, which will detail how much money schools will be getting in the coming year.

Closer look at budget

Last year, the district faced the same problem. At the end of June 2012, it faced a deficit of $79.5 million, and balanced it by using $45.2 million from the district’s reserve fund, approving five furlough days, which saved the district $15 million, Johnson said, as every furlough day equates to $3 million.

Both actions, Johnson said, were one-time solutions to a recurring problem, as there is not enough money in the reserve fund to tap into it again to fix this year’s deficit.

There was about $75 million, as of June 2013, left in the district’s reserve fund, but Johnson said he would like the fund to maintain at least enough money to fund the school district for a month, $71 million.

What does $79 million mean?

There is to be an expected gap between revenues and expenses of about $79 million, or about 10 percent of the school district’s budget this year, Johnson said.

Unless the state gives the district more money, the school board is going to have to make tough decisions on how to trim down the spending of the state’s second-largest school system.

“All of a sudden, our revenue stream has gone negative,” Johnson said.

The salaries and benefits of the district’s employees make up roughly 90 percent of the total budget, Johnson said, and those of the workers in the central office comprise about 3 percent of the budget.

“It really comes down to staffing, but we have already increased class sizes,” he said.

The average teacher salary in the county, including benefits, is $75,000, he said.

To close the nearly $80 million gap with teacher salaries, about 1,053 teachers would need to be cut.

Of the 13,526 people employed by the school district, 5,538 are classroom teachers, according to the district’s website.

At a savings of $3 million each, there would need to be about 26 furlough days instituted to fix the deficit next year if no staff cuts were made or any other sources of revenue gained.

“The deficit will stay until hard decisions are made,” Johnson said.

Comments
(77)
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Kennesaw Voter
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December 11, 2013
Finally an outstanding article explaining the school budget mess. It is clear that the Cobb BoE must cut staff. There are less than 6,000 teachers but over 13,000 employees!! Cobb must CUT the staff including the central office staffers.

Building a bunch of smaller schools and adding in all the administration to run those smaller schools COSTS a BUNCH of TAX DOLLARS! STOP IT.

Stop all the taxpayer abuse that has been going on ever since the SPLOST first started. The Cobb BoE took a great program (SPLOST) and trashed our school system with all these smaller schools that cost TONS of dollars to run.

RIDICULOUS!

I hope the Cobb BoE gets the message...CUT staffers NOW.

Michelle sollicito
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December 21, 2013
The salaries of all the central staff together account for 3-5% of the budget. Many of the other employees are special needs teachers, custodians, maintenance workers, bus drivers and other educational support staff who interact directly with kids such as para pros (people your kids would call "teachers" even if they aren't officially teachers).

The new schools are all LARGE schools, not small schools. The purpose is to maximize economies of scale,though many including myself would argue size of school is often inversely proportionate to quality of education esp in Elementary schools). So actually the new schools cost less to run in real terms
morethandumb
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December 09, 2013
QBE, Senior Exemption, and tax rates are all political issues that the school board won't fix. The gutless politicians won't touch these issues either for fear of losing elections. With no additional revenue possible for the county, the only solution they have is cutting services.

If you cut services, you get poor results. With poor results, you get lower student achievement. With lower achievement, you get lower property values. With lower property values, you get less money to the schools. And the cycle keeps spinning.

It is completely idiotic to ignore the revenue side of this equation. All of the clowns on here chanting "do more with less" don't have a sense of what kind of funds are needed to run a school system properly. I see no frills, bells, nor whistles of any kind in my kids' schools; in fact, it's pretty awful what I see.

"Anonymous," that brave character who insults teachers so steadily, is the definition of imbecile. My wife teaches and works ten times harder than any professional I know in the corporate world. She molds children into the people who will run your world; don't you think that's worthy of a few extra bucks?

Without paying for education, the county, state, and country have no hope at all. The ignorant will beget the ignorant, and our society will crumble. All because politicans were too scared to make the right decisions for our schools.
@ morethandumb
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December 10, 2013
The school board has no authority to modify the senior tax exemption. Take this issue up with those who can do something about it - that's Cobb's state senators and representatives.
Pay Up Seniors
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December 11, 2013
@morethandumb, you are exactly right and commenting here is an excellent way to get Tippins and others' attention and to let them know that many Cobb taxpayers are willing to change this.

The CCSB also needs to do their part to begin the repeal process and end this perk for a special interest group.

State legislators and CCSB members are you reading this?!
Kennesaw Voter
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December 11, 2013
It is appalling how some folks will drive our seniors into the poor house or worse...drive them out of state in order to get their grimy hands on the senior's tax exemption. DISGUSTING!

Live within your means...don't steal from the seniors.
John Galt
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December 17, 2013
@ Kennesaw Voter, I am afraid you have it backwards. It is the seniors who are taking from the young people in this country and driving them into the poor house.

Young adults’ ability to grow their personal assets over the past 30 years has decreased considerably. Average wealth for individuals in their 20s and 30s dropped 7 percent from 1983 to 2010, while those 74 and over have seen wealth increase by 149 percent in the same time period. Young people are much worse off today than their parents were at their age. I would maintain that a great deal of that is due to the disproportionate share of government resources allocated to those 65 and older in this country.
Michelle Sollicito
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December 21, 2013
Call the governor to fund our schools. That is the solution to these issues really. Also call your representatives and tell them to cut the senior exemption for non residents (ie those who haven't lived here for at least 4 yrs) and for those who are under 65. A senior exemption shouldn't kick in til

65 yrs of age.
JohnGMorris
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December 09, 2013
A lot of numbers are being quoted, but may are wrong or misinterpreted.

$75,000 is the average compensation, salary plus benefits. Average teacher salary is $50-55k. All teachers have a college degree. Most have one or more years of post graduate work, particularly those teaching 6th-12th grades (e.g., BS in chemistry plus all the education stuff).

The number of employees in the FY 2014 Budget was 11,577 (excludes about 2000 employees funded by other than the general fund, Title I, school nutrition and so on). The number of instructional staff (in classroom) was 8065. A substantial number of this total is devoted to needs of various subgroups: special needs (1,200), gifted, remedial, english language learners, and so on. There are 3199 school support positions which in include administrators, clerical staff, more special needs support, custodians, maintenance, and bus drivers (1,000). Somethings could be outsourced, but you can't get rid of the function. There are 319 central office support positions. Many like the idea of cutting the central office, but then how would you run an operation with 110,000 students, 14,000 employees, more than 100 schools. Planes would be cheaper too if they left the navigation equipment off, but I wouldn't want to fly in them.

Raising the millage rate to 20% would raise about $20 million. Eliminating the 62-65 exemption would raise about $25 million. Restoring the 1450 teaching positions (including EIP) lost since 2009 would bring class sizes down below state maximums (see http://www.ccsd-advocate.org/issues/basics/maximums), but it would cost $108 million. Factoring in the projected $80 million shortfall, the district is really about $145 million from fully funding its programs after maximizing its revenue generating capacity. The district can shrink the shortfall by reducing course offerings, but if the district wants to return to reasonable class sizes it will need to hire a lot of teachers. Current class sizes by post and school can be found here (http://www.ccsd-advocate.org/issues/classSize/schoolStats).



The district can raise about $950 million a year, but SPLOST, which is about $120 million, is strictly for bricks and mortar. So the district can potentially build class rooms that will remain empty. The millage rate can't be raised above 20%. SPLOST spending restrictions and millage rate maximums are all state regulations. The class size maximum is also a state regulation or mandate. The district won't be able to comply with that regulation any time soon because it lacks flexibility in revenue generation and spending as well as funds from the state. State revenues are down 7.3% from 2009, but the state contributions to education are down 10.7%. So the state doesn't have any addition funds for the district, at least in part, because they spent it somewhere else.

The irony is that the state gave the district the flexibility to ignore class size maximums to the detriment of the students, but the state denies the district the ability to address the problem in any constructive manner. Even if the state can't or won't provide additional funds, at least the state could allow the district to use the funds it has more wisely.
Kennesaw Voter
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December 11, 2013
I don't care what numbers you rollout for everyone.

Leave the current mil rate alone.

Leave the senior exemption alone.

Those 2 things even by your comments WILL NOT FIX THE PROBLEM. The problem is spending. Cut staff. Cut salaries. Cut benefit costs. Stop overspending. It is really simple people.

Even if you do everything you want, the overspending would cause the Cobb school system to run out of money within 3 years because of the OVERSPENDING.
Kennesaw Voter
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December 11, 2013
What IRONY...the Cobb BoE has proven they can't spend money wisely so removing the State's restrictions would NOT help the overspending Cobb BoE.
Be Careful
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December 09, 2013
The answer is NOT more taxes, or taxing seniors, or allowing redirection of SPLOST funds.

The answer is the district must STOP wasting money on nonsense projects and reduce the overburden of a huge "administrative" staff.

The financial problems they suffer are totally of their own making, and they could easily get out of it if they made some smart decisions.

The workforce is WAY out of balance. The HQ staff needs to be mean and lean. That there are more than twice as many admin people as teachers is insane. No business could survive like that, and they are not surviving.

Do NOT give them MORE money. Make them life within their means, and make some smart decisions for once.

Getting sick of this
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December 10, 2013
What figures do you have to back-up these statements? Your ignorance of the matter makes me assume you must be outside the realm of education, because your argument does not hold water.

Working in CCSD I do see places where there is waste, but that waste comes from funds outside the general fund - such as some of the SPLOST projects. But this huge administrative staff that you speak of and nonsense projects (that come from the general fund)simply don't exist. Before you think you can come up with answers using soundbite coach speak, how about you check into reality for a little bit.
Michelle SOLLICITO
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December 21, 2013
I agree with "getting sick of this". Seems to me the only people accusing the ccsd board of wasteful spending are people who have not researched the actual facts! So lost spending may have some waste in it but we are talking about general fund where the CCSD is almost walking on water it is doing such a miraculous job with the money it gets in..

Their means have fallen in real terms by a huge amount over recent years (20-40% depending upon how you calculate it) while they are dealing with increased enrollments, increased health and retirement costs and more..
Mr. Garrison
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December 09, 2013
My take is that most of the teachers I have run across nowadays, are not in it for the actual job of teaching. Its all about the lifestyle. I say we should work em year round. They shouldn't be able to become complacent. It used to be a job that earned those perks, but now the perks come first.
Teacher's Husband
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December 09, 2013
Mr. Garrison,

Well, aren't you a real horse's behind? You need to walk a mile in their shoes before you spout off such nonsense.

What lifestyle? They get paid an average wage for someone with a college degree, their hands are tied regarding discipline of unruly kids and they have to put up with spoiled, petty, and unreasonable parents.

The majority teach because they feel called to teach. They are never going to get rich doing it. When budget cuts come, it seems to always be the teachers who carry the bulk of the cut.

So before you jump into a discussion, you really need to understand what you are talking about.
Sgt. McCrannon
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December 09, 2013
Everyone thinks they can be a teacher. After all, most Americans spend about 2340 days of their life in a classroom. If you went to 2340 day long concerts you might think you could sing to. You'd be wrong but I can see how you might make that mistake. You’d just overlook all that goes into the stage show-the lyrics, the choreography, the orchestration, the lighting, choosing the set list, there might be some hecklers who are just there to get negative attention or are only there for the free refreshments that are provided. Now days many concert goers never had a parent explain concert etiquette but still, the show must go on. Come to think of it you’d assume that the performer was pretty lame if you didn’t have to pay for ANY of the 2340 concerts would you? It wouldn’t give you any incentive to behave during the concert would it? All that behind the scenes business that goes into the concerts and we haven’t even addressed the actual TALENT yet have we? But go ahead, make those assumptions. It won't solve any problems but it sure makes you feel better when you disparage teachers, doesn't it? Those lazy teachers with their perks! Let’s pay them like babysitters because that’s all they are! Let’s see…baby sitters get $10 and hour but I bet we could pay them $7. So $7 an hour times 8 hours times 35 kids times 180 days equals $352,800 per year per teacher…That sounds fair. I’ll take that in a cashier’s check please. Oh, and I’m retired so don’t give me any of your “you should be working not on MDJ” BS either!
Do not offend me!
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December 09, 2013
I agree that there are teachers who just look forward to the breaks. The majority are hard working and dedicated teachers. I get to work at 6:45 am, I teach during my lunch and planning, and leave after 3:00 pm, tutor twice a week after school and on Saturdays, and do my planning at night and on the weekends. Do you complain that a babysitter charges $8.00 per an hour for one child and teaches them nothing? Let's do the math. I have 58 children that I teach during the day. 58 x 8= $464 per a day x 5 days= $2320 x 38= $88,160. Heck, I'll take that! Do you complain that a football player gets paid millions for throwing a ball and contribute nothing to our future? Get a life!
AmericanMale
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December 09, 2013
This statement is true, but misleading:

"Of the 13,526 people employed by the school district, 5,538 are classroom teachers, according to the district’s website."

In actuality, their website goes on to list who is working with students on a daily basis in great specificity:

5,538 Classroom Teachers

1,452 Special Education Teachers

263 School Counselors

35 School Social Workers

49 School Psychologists

127 Media Specialists

1,307 Paraprofessionals

That's nearly 9,000 people who are involved in educating children on a daily basis. The remainder are building administrators, bus drivers, bus mechanics, lunchroom personnel, heating and air conditioning maintenance, plumbing maintenance, electrical maintenance, computer technology personnel, bookkeepers, custodians, public safety and other support staff.

Someone mentioned outsourcing in their post. I believe the CCSB looked at that (with regard to custodians) last year and concluded that the risk that a company might not do adequate background checks on someone who routinely interacts with our children was too high.

Let's face it. Cobb is more efficient than most. Perhaps more efficiencies can be found. CCSB should push for that. But, the problem remains: it's not abundant abuse of funds that's the problem, it's a lack of funding that's the problem!!
Kennesaw Voter
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December 11, 2013
Sorry but you don't need

100's of Nurses

263 School Counselors

35 School Social Workers

49 School Psychologists

127 Media Specialists

1,307 Paraprofessionals

They were not around when I went to school; they don't need to be around now. All those overpaid principals can do the counseling and parents can come get their sick kid when the kid does not feel good.
Michelle Sollicito
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December 21, 2013
You would not believe how busy school nurses are with minor cuts and bruises let alone with thing like first aid after broken arms or seizures. They often have to watch kids until parents can arrive to pick up kids as they have to drive back from work. If parents took time off every time a kid went to a nurse at school, probably all businesses in metro atlanta would grind to a halt. We had nurses when I was a kid and when my husband was a kid and we are in our late 40s. In our day media specialists were called librarians. Kids died at the hands of abusers in schools which had no school social workers and para pros were called school helpers or teachers assistants.
Jeff A. Taylor
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December 09, 2013
Here is a common-sense way forward to deal with Cobb's financial and political realities going forward.

-- Put the Senior Exemption on the table. It is simply a fiction that ALL homeowners do not benefit from quality public schools. Perhaps do not eliminate it completely, but this special interest lobby must be confronted.

-- Change state law to allow the current local option sales tax to be spent on capital OR operational needs. Certainly easier than trying to create an entirely new class of sales tax. The building lobby will not like this, but presumably we care about kids not concrete.

-- Contract out ALL non-educational functions. Cherokee made steps in this direction and did not fall off the edge of the earth. As it is right now, Cobb values janitors as much as teachers. Does that make sense?

-- Embrace online learning and teachers. This is very threatening to classroom teachers. Too bad. It is the wave of the future. That Cobb backtracked on this under pressure from classroom teachers recently is very disappointing to anyone who understands technology.

You'll notice a theme: Confront special interests to serve the common good. Not terribly revolutionary. Or perhaps entirely too much so.

Thanks for listening.
Pay Up Seniors
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December 08, 2013
I didn't vote for Tippins because I wasn't happy with him as a CCSB member and it looks like I won't be happy with him as a state legislator. As I understand it, the State Constitution calls for 50% of all state spending to be in education. Is this the case?

Also, raising the property millage rate is a nonstarter. Let's llok at the folks who are not paying school tax and hit them up before going to those who are already paying. Everyone needs to pay their fair share.
Please Move
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December 11, 2013
Please move to DeKalb or Fulton.
Nosurpryz
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December 08, 2013
Cobb County has been digging a financial hole for several years now. Teachers have given up all kinds of things year after year after year. Teachers took a 2% pay cut several years back, i bet nobody remembers that. That's gone, teachers will NEVER see that money again. One of the main problems with Cobb County is that we have so many faculty/staff (EPS Supervisors etc....) We don't need all that support and supervisory staff, they don't teach the kids, they have no interaction with the kids. Dissolve those positions. They are not needed. Ask any teacher and they will tell you that we are bloated with staff who NEVER interact with our children. They are simply paperwork pushers. Get rid of them and see the savings. They make over 6 figures a year...How much does testing and these new ridiculous teacher evaluations going to cost the state and county? Think about it.
Kennesaw Voter
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December 11, 2013
Well look at it like this; without these "reductions" you are describing, we would be paying teachers over $100,000 per year. I know that is what you want but we can't afford it.

Cut salaries, cut positions, cut benefits, cut staff and stop building all those smaller schools.

And cut the administration too.
AmericanMale
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December 08, 2013
Sorry, but Rep Manning and others evidently don't pay any attention to the details: the biggest problem is a state government "Robin hood" use of Cobb taxpayer money!!!

First, they take 5 mills of our tax money and give >$60 Million to Gwinnett (deemed a "poor county" under QBE). Then, they keep another $65 million and call it an austerity cut.

Exemptions from taxes are authorized/controlled by the state legislature. They alone hold the authority to rescind or reduce them, even on a temporary basis. Yet, they conveniently ignore certain exemptions when calculating how much funding is returned to each district. Cobb was generous with exemptions in good economic times, but now, those funds are needed and no one at the state level wants to give it back!

It IS very serious this year!

Some will use the opportunity to bash central office for lavish spending and bloated salaries. While there are some definite areas of potential efficiency gains, the overall CO doesn't account for enough of the budget to make a substantial impact. In fact, if eliminated altogether, it would only solve less than 5% of the shortfall. And, all of the support duties, such as paying the bills and monitoring spending, would have to shift to someone at the schools!!

Georgia legislators need to stop the theft of Cobb taxpayer dollars and begin funding education like responsible human beings should!!!
Lisa Hanson
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December 08, 2013
For years the CCSD has overspent, not managed the dollars well, and stolen from Peter to pay Paul. It is amazing to me that they continue to fund workshops for administrators to teach them "how to be organized". Little common sense has been used to determine the priorities of keeping this school district solvent. Too much emphasis was put on passing SPLOST so that they could build bigger, better stadiums and schools. I hate to tell Mr. Sweeney, but making Gov. Deal feel "uncomfortable" is not the solution to getting more money from the state. The bigger issue is budgeting and making cuts where they can, i.e Target programs, training days, un necessary trips to Florida for educators to attend a conference when they could have video conferenced it. So many places that there could have been cuts, but this district has a spending problem.
K. Euston
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December 09, 2013
Amen....It is not always about throwing more money at the problem which I have told Mr. Sweeney it is about better management of the money you are given. And he calls himself a Republican. He campaigned on eliminating the vacation accrual perk yet for 3 years he did nothing about it. The last number I saw showed there is over $7 mio in savings there. He also campaigned on bidding out the legal services of the district yet voted against it. The central office is redecorating and our teachers are taking salary cuts. It is time for the Board to cut the fat. It is time for Mr. Sweeney to review his campaign promises and remind his supporters why they helped elect him.
Michelle Sollicito
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December 09, 2013
Lisa

Please can you email me. I want to hear about some of these ways they can cut costs.

Michelle Sollicito

https://www.facebook.com/groups/FundCobbSchools/
@Lisa Hanson
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December 09, 2013
You do realize that CCSD's student population has increased significantly over the last 12 years. Do you not remember the trailers? My daughters high school had over 38 trailers now with the 2 new additions all students are housed inside the building. How about the 50 year old outdated buildings? Please use some logic before spouting off about SPLOST. The Stadiums are paid for by the booster clubs not SPLOST, yes the turf was but the fb field is used by PE, sports teams, bands etc.

Please look at this number $500 million has been shorted by the state for CCSD since 2003. How in the heck do you balance the budget when good old boy Perdue started the 'austerity' cuts in 2003?

You could CUT the entire central office, bus drivers etc and we would still be short. Remember it's a $79 million shortfall.

No the district does not have a spending problem the Tea Baggers under the Gold Dome are hell bent on destroying our public schools.
Public misread
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December 08, 2013
Please do not comment on how teachers make

$ 75,000 per year! That is an average with all administrator salaries. I can promise you that after 20 years of working and spending $ 9,000 on a Masters degree at Kennesaw State, I am not making $ 75,000 with benefits. Before you complain about teachers, please enlighten me on how you think it is okay that a professional athlete makes millions of dollars per year throwing a ball around, they are not contributing anything to society that is Earth shattering, but you complain that the people who are educating the future of America are not worth the same respect and salaries? I find it all too humorous that you believe I make too much money while you are throwing your money at the feet of someone who plays ball. Please do not reply that test scores have dropped. Test scores are the responsibility of the children and parents. Trust me, we give them the information they need 5 different ways. We don't control whether they choose to study. I work at a Title I school and I am in constant contact with my student's parents. Please help us find a solution to the problem instead of bashing us and making us feel worthless.
Me Me Me
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December 09, 2013
You are not worthless at all. None of us are. It is you crybaby's that act like you are the most abused faction of society when the rest of America is lucky to get 2 weeks off per year; maybe one?; that makes us want to puke when you whine. You have it made. Quit witching. And you are prima donnas that think what the rest of us do is not important to children. My advice to you is to keep your mouth shut; otherwise, other people will be on to your chuck wagon about working half a year.
Cobb Mom of 2
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December 09, 2013
I've been teaching in Cobb County for over 10 years with a master's degree and I don't come close to $75,000 a year. In fact I make less than $45,000 and pay over $500 a month for my health benefits.
rtmann
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December 09, 2013
Good for you "Public Misread" You couldn't be more correct.
rtmann
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December 09, 2013
me me me...

Please know that most teachers DO NOT work half of a year, give me a damn break already. I am so sick and tired of hearing how teachers get the whole Summer off and do nothing! Give it up already. Most teachers that i know work a part time job in the Summer to supplement their income because of all of these pay cuts and the inability to raise a family on a teacher salary. And you know what?? For all those that say if you don't make enough money then stop crying and get a new job. GUESS WHAT! That is already starting to happen.
Mr. Hand
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December 09, 2013
I hope you wrote that $9000 for the Master's degree as a business expense. The argument about professional athletes making the million$, doesn't stand up, but it does bring up a novel idea-Performance based pay_. If you can't do your job up to the standards you get paid less or even cut from the team. You may even get endorsement deals if you are really good.
@me me me
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December 09, 2013
I am paid for 9 month of work. CCSD spreads that pay out over 12 months. If you want I'd be happy to receive my pay within those 9 months. This is an option in many states but sadly we have no union so we can't bargain to receive this right. CCSD holds my money and earns interest. I AM NOT PAID FOR DAYS I DO NOT WORK!!! This is why CCSD is able to balance it's budget by furloughing me, DUH!!!
Please…
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December 09, 2013
Cobb Mom of 2, if you were truly a teacher in Cobb, you would be making 54, 289 as a ten year teacher with M. Ed. Something tells me that you are not being truthful. Oh, I know what it is. The fact that you said you make 45,000 and have been teaching for 10 years. A teacher of five years with a M. Ed. makes 45,000.00 I would be very careful to check your service years, as you might not be receiving credit for years you have taught.
Kenensaw Voter
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December 11, 2013
I don't support millionaire ball players but how is that relevant to this conversation? If you are a teacher, you should be encouraged to move to DeKalb or Atlanta.
Priorities
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December 08, 2013
Yet the county can snap its fingers and magically raise $300 million for a new baseball stadium. Unbelievable!
@ Priorities
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December 09, 2013
Like many, you obviously don't realize that the school tax and county commission tax are separate. They cannot be co-mingled.

The school district's ONLY source for local revenue for its operations budget is from school property tax.

The 1% SPLOST for education cannot be used for operations.
@@Priorities
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December 09, 2013
Actually, I do realize the budgeting process for the county and the CCSD. My point being, if we can so quickly find ways to "creatively" finance a stadium, why are our leaders not as passionate about finding creative ways to raise more money for the CCSD. If the law stipulates that the CCSD's ONLY source of funding is from the school property tax, THEN CHANGE THE LAW.
Michelle Sollicito
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December 09, 2013
It really annoys me that whenever someone mentions Education in the same breath as the Braves stadium someone points out how "stupid" we are that we do not realize that they are two separate pots of money. It is NOT the people who are "stupid" it is those who use our taxes to pay for a stadium rather than spend that time and energy finding some way for that money to get spent on Education!

If you are slimy enough to find a backhand way to take our taxes and spend them on a stadium and lie through your teeth to convince the people it is for their benefit and it will bring a lot of money to Cobb County, it is surely pretty easy for you to find some way to BEND THE RULES to get the money spent on WHAT WE WANT IT SPENT ON INSTEAD!

Cobb County wants OUR tax money spent on Education and NOT on a stadium. That message is very clear. The fact that you guys cannot come up with some trick, bend the rules, funny accounting method or whatever to get us WHAT WE WANT, and yet you find it so easy to fund something which really should be funded by the PRIVATE SECTOR - not local government AT ALL - THAT IS A CRIME! You have broken your obligations as the purseholders of our tax dollars to spend the money in the most favorable way to benefit the County.

THAT IS STUPID! Not the fact that we, as tax payers, see it all as ONE POT OF MONEY because it is OUR TAXES!!

It was YOU guys who came up with the rules that state that our taxes from one pot cannot be spent on Education.. SO YOU GUYS CAN UNMAKE THE RULES OR BEND them.

Remember YOU work for US! You are meant to do what WE WANT! NOT what the Braves want!
Kennesaw Voter
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December 11, 2013
Spoken like a true NON-property owning person.

Don't ask me to explain...just go back to your rental.
SomewhereInCobb
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December 08, 2013
IF --and I do mean IF-- the real purpose of a school system is to educate the district's youth, then this one sentence in the article should tell the board how to fix the deficit problem: "Of the 13,526 people employed by the school district, 5,538 are classroom teachers, according to the district’s website." You have 2/3 of your work force as NON-teachers, but you can't figure out how to find the money? REALLY???

Cobb Mom
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December 08, 2013
Embarrassing! We should hang our heads in shame at this!!!

Correction Needed
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December 09, 2013
Did a quick check and saw that 5,538 number doesn't include people in the classrooms and/or working directly with students;

1,452 Special Education Teachers

1,307 Parapros

127 Media Specialists

Bus Drivers and Food Service workers are also included in the total employee count. Believe that Food Service workers are not counted in the regular budget and that their funding is derived from Fed support plus food/bev purchases.

frak
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December 09, 2013
Amen!
Just Wait
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December 08, 2013
Great article. I think it illustrates the public's desire for the CCSD to get back to education and get rid of the frills. A tax increase is not the answer, nor is depending on the state to throw money in Cobb County's pit.
Techer's Perspective
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December 08, 2013
WE, the teachers, have had it with CCSD. 35 students in classrooms, rude and disrespectful students, added responsibilities annually, furlough days, overall salary cuts of 2.5% and never returned to us, no raises in 6 years, more standardized testing than necessary, more formal evaluations:(4)coming next school year and very low morale among the educators. To complete the picture, many schools have decreased the number of school administrators and when we need one to address discipline, they are so busy that it is difficulty for the. They are so busy scheduling, testing, evaluating and helping educators, and simply assisting in making the organization run well, they may no be available when we need them. They also work ridiculously long hours. SOMEONE HELP. My husband and I are educators and we cannot survive any longer.
anonymous
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December 09, 2013
Go into the private sector, then go back and count your past blessings. You have it made, honey. "We cannot survive any longer." What? Do you and your husband teach drama 101? How is it that you "cannot survive any longer?" I have had it with you educator drama queens. I hope I have helped you to count your blessings.
anonymous
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December 10, 2013
Are you for real? Honestly? Really? "My husband and I are educators and we cannot survive any longer." You sound like my teenager that said she would die if I didn't lift her time off the Internet. What about two minimum wage parents? I guess to you they would have died already or not survived. Statements such as this just reiterate the fact the teachers are whinny little children. Did you just say "My husband and I are educators and we cannot survive any longer?" Yes, you did. Yes, you did. I suspect if you got rid of one SUV, one story off your home, etc., you would survive quite nicely. Is that what you educator wimps have come to? Bemoaning that you cannot survive any longer on two "educator" salaries? Tell that to somebody in Sudan. Not in Cobb County.
anonymous
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December 10, 2013
Are you for real? Honestly? Really? "My husband and I are educators and we cannot survive any longer." You sound like my teenager that said she would die if I didn't lift her time off the Internet. What about two minimum wage parents? I guess to you they would have died already or not survived. Statements such as this just reiterate the fact the teachers are whinny little children. Did you just say "My husband and I are educators and we cannot survive any longer?" Yes, you did. Yes, you did. I suspect if you got rid of one SUV, one story off your home, etc., you would survive quite nicely. Is that what you educator wimps have come to? Bemoaning that you cannot survive any longer on two "educator" salaries? Tell that to somebody in Sudan. Not in Cobb County.
Common Sense
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December 08, 2013
My concern in all of this is that quality, experienced veterans will grow tired of all of this nonsense and either retire or leave the profession all together, while young professionals will take no interest in a teaching career and those who have just started their career will leave too soon. From all the stories I hear from my teacher friends, you couldn't pay me enough to deal with the daily frustrations that teachers have to endure. Why would anyone want to be in a profession where you receive little to no respect, little chance for financial advancement, and then have to bear the brunt of accountability from apathetic students and parents.
Lib in Cobb
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December 08, 2013
.......how to fund Cobb schools"?

Ask Tim Lee, perhaps a deal drawn up involving the Braves and the the ultra rich developers would be something to examine.
Budget Primer
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December 08, 2013
To David Chastain; Your myopic vantage is typical of many who confuse capital and operation budgets.

Districts cannot divert funds from capital funding (i.e. SPLOST) to operations.

You're mentality would still have children in more than 700 trailers across the county. The capital budget has reduced trailers to less than 100.

Expensive to maintain crumbling infrastructure is replaced with more efficient, lest costly to maintain solutions. Heck, why don't we go back to incandescent lighting and pay more in utility costs?

Mr. Chastain - pray tell - What are your solutions? You cite mismanagement. How would you allocate the operations, not the capital budget to solve the problem?

Kennesaw Voter
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December 11, 2013
The BoE does not want to get rid of all the trailers that way they can always say they need to get rid of the trailers every 5 years when the SPLOST vote comes around....come on dude, everybody knows that.
ECP
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December 08, 2013
There are clear problems with this story. A disservice, and foundational lie are being told when information is presented that states the average teacher salary is 75,000. Each of us probably knows a few teachers. Ask those teachers to be honest with you and tell you their salary. Then, do the math to see that the average salary is nowhere near 75,000. Sadly, many will comment on this story stating that teachers get paid too much, have too many days off, and will point to recent reports from other countries. The folks that do this don't understand school budgets. The reality is that because of QBE, Cobb County has to hand over approximately 130 million each year. Do the math. If we could keep the money, there would be 50 million left over, after the upcoming 80 million projected deficit is met. Fifty million is still huge money. What we really need to do is encourage the state to let us keep our money and not pass it out to surrounding county school systems. I will bet that many don't know that Gwinnett County gets money from Cobb County (not directly, but through QBE). We could solve our yearly deficit concerns if not for QBE. People of Cobb County really need to write to state legislators asking for changes in QBE funding.

We also need to be prepared for a tax hike. It simply has to happen. How can we be so ignorant in Cobb to not recognize that paying 20 mils really is not that bad, and won't hurt peoples' wallets and purses. Folks, this needs to get done. I believe we need to move to 21 mils for taxes, but anything over 20 has to come from the Commissioners.

Let's not be foolish anymore. Before screaming abut inefficiencies, please take a look at what IS happening to the money that the county brings in. It isn't staying here.
Kennesaw Voter
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December 11, 2013
I am all for Cobb keeping all of Cobb's tax money for our schools and dump the QBE...I NEVER supported that nonsense BUT, I also know if Cobb did get that other money it would be misspent and the BoE would still be moaning about no money...That $50 million you say they would have leftover each year would already be gone in salaries, perks, benefits, and other stuff; it would NEVER be returned to the TAXPAYER as not needed. That is why you will have a hard time convincing folks like me that the CCSD is not wasting my tax dollars.
Kennesaw Voter
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December 12, 2013
I am so happy that YOU are NOT on the Cobb BoE. We need to get the tax and spend crowd OUT and the CUT and MANAGE group IN.
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