Proposed Cobb Board of Education budget includes raises, new hires
by Nikki Wiley
April 14, 2014 06:21 PM | 10382 views | 16 16 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
04-14-14  --SCHOOL BUDGET 06--  Cobb County School Board member David Banks, Scott Sweeney and Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci listen in as Vice Chairman Randy Scamihorn asks questions about the 2015 budget presented Monday to the board by Chief Financial Officer Brad Johnson during a special call  meeting. The proposed 2015 fiscal year budget totaling $890 million, including a proposal to hire 193 new teachers.  Staff/Kelly J. Huff
04-14-14 --SCHOOL BUDGET 06-- Cobb County School Board member David Banks, Scott Sweeney and Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci listen in as Vice Chairman Randy Scamihorn asks questions about the 2015 budget presented Monday to the board by Chief Financial Officer Brad Johnson during a special call meeting. The proposed 2015 fiscal year budget totaling $890 million, including a proposal to hire 193 new teachers. Staff/Kelly J. Huff
MARIETTA — The beginning of the end of furlough days and overcrowded classrooms could be arriving in Cobb under a proposed school district budget that includes a 180-day school year, 193 new teacher hires and employee raises.

The Cobb Board of Education heard a proposed budget for the first time Monday that includes unexpected good news about increases in funding from the county’s property tax digest and Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration.

Outgoing Superintendent Michael Hinojosa’s proposed almost $890 million balanced budget is a far cry from the fears district administrators expressed in October when a $79 million deficit was forecasted.

“In my 25 years as a superintendent, I’ve never seen a swing from an $80 million negative to a potential positive,” Hinojosa said.

Tentative approval of the budget is scheduled for April 24 and final adoption is set for May 29. Before officially adopting the budget, public forums will be held.

A $21 million jump in the county’s tax digest, a reduction in state austerity cuts of about $20 million and some one-time funding sources helped turnaround the district’s grave projections, said Chief Financial Officer Brad Johnson.

Cobb’s schools are funded mostly by local property taxes and Georgia’s school funding formula, called Quality Basic Education or QBE.

“Over the past six years, both of these sources have plummeted into what I would call a perfect storm,” Johnson said.

Last year, the local tax digest decreased by 2 percent, making this year’s 4.5 percent growth unexpected.

“Evidently, the economy continues to show evidence of turning around,” Johnson said.

Hinojosa’s proposed budget includes returning to a 180-day school year with no furlough and the hiring of 193 new teachers — 163 general education and 30 special education.

A 50-cent per hour raise for school nurses is also proposed along with an increase in pay for substitute teachers from $69 per day to $80. Two new custodial positions and three security officers are also recommended.

Employees may also be eligible for raises.

The school board will also consider giving paraprofessionals raises.

“This is just a dramatic turnaround from where we’ve been in the last few years,” Johnson said.

Raises for teachers or more teachers?

Under the proposed budget, about $6.7 million is set aside for hiring even more teachers than the 193 proposed or giving existing teachers a raise.

“Candidly, I’d like to see what we can do to reduce class sizes even further,” said Scott Sweeney, board member.

Though maximum classroom sizes are set by the state, Cobb has received waivers in the past to put more students in classes than recommended. At first, Cobb put five extra students in classrooms, but last year, the district got permission to have eight additional students.

High school math, English, social studies, science and foreign language classes can have a maximum of 32 students per classroom, according to the state. In middle school, the maximum is 28 students. For grades four and five, it is also 28 students. Grades one through three are set at 21 students, and kindergarten is 18 students.

“Since 2008 and 2009, we have had at least 1,300 fewer teachers while we also have enrollment growth,” Sweeney said.

Two hundred more teachers won’t fix the problem, Sweeney said, but “we’re making some good progress.”

Randy Scamihorn, board vice chair, said he would like to see the district make reducing class sizes a priority and still give teachers a small raise.

School officials will reach out to principals, Scamihorn said, to determine the best use of the $6.7 million it has to allocate.

Optimism is coupled with caution

Though unexpected increases in revenue are anticipated to help schools get back on track, the district plans to be conservative, Johnson said.

“I want to remind the board that there’s still $45 million in austerity cuts in the state funding formula,” Johnson said.

That money represents about 500 teachers, Sweeney said, who Cobb can’t hire.

He’s cautious because he maintains there’s no guarantee the state will fully fund schools in the coming years. The state formula hasn’t been fully carried out since 2003, Sweeney said, when the “economy was on fire.”

“Next year is not an election year, so I think what you’re going to see is less pressure to fully fund the QBE formula,” Sweeny said.

There’s no reason not to expect the county’s tax digest to continue increasing, Johnson said, and the district should be able to sustain the new hires and return to a 180-day year with no furloughs.

“It would be crazy to do away with them and then next year bring them back,” Johnson said.

Scamihorn said the district must continue to “gently pressure” state officials to make education funding a priority.

Kathleen Angelucci, board chairwoman, agreed suggesting the conversations board members and administrators had with state lawmakers and the governor’s office need to happen yearly and that Cobb’s balanced budget cannot be a “one-time influx of money.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Cobb School Advocate
April 15, 2014
It would be totally irresponsible for this Board to approve pay raises and continue to raid the reserves !

If they are going to be poor financial stewards then they should offer one-time bonus as opposed to raises that will be be another problem years to come beginning next year when Deal slashes education spending again. Would really hate to see them reduce salaries like they 2% they did a few years ago.

Reserves are pitifully low and should not be used for frivilous political raises just to make folks happy !

next year it will be back to furloughs, higher student to teacher and worst !
Mike In Smyrna
April 15, 2014
An $80 million negative to a positive overnight?? One week the glass is empty, the next week the glass is full. A $21 million increase in the county's tax digest. A $20 million increase from the state. What are the one-time funding sources to the tune of $39 million? If they are one-time funding, do we start 2016 in the negative?

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain"
April 15, 2014
Glad to hear no more furlough days. Kids need to be in school & teachers need to be in the classrooms. More teachers are great too. Hope we will be getting some better teachers that are wanting to teach instead of wanting the benefits after 10 years. Raises or more teachers. I would pick more teachers to lower the classroom size.
April 15, 2014


April 15, 2014
The employees have never gotten back the 2% pay cut that they received several years back. Any "raise" would fall under restoring what was cut rather than a true raise. While any increase would be welcome, particularly by long-term employees who are not eligible for steps, this is just a reminder that we would need to be back even before anyone should start calling it a raise. I think the public needs to understand the personal financial sacrifice that the teachers have made and are still making to fund education for their children. That said, we can all be glad the situation is improving.
Grateful staff
April 15, 2014
As an employee, no furloughs mean some extra in my pocket, so I will take it. We knew that 2% was never going to re-appear one year. I am glad to have a job and get a paycheck. if you want to complain and not be grateful for being employed, feel free to look elsewhere.I am concerned, however, that the money will not be around next year after the election year bribe.
Concern Nurse
April 15, 2014
There is no improving when you have been in the system for 10 years or more and no steps given.This is a insulate the Nursee who keep the school running evrday.
April 15, 2014
@Nurse- There are 30 steps, so if you are at the top after 10 years, you knew that coming in. The lack of merit pay increases/reductions is one of the hazards of govt work- builds apathy and complacency.
Which Way Ray
April 15, 2014
Didn't nurses get a raise last year? What about transportation, cafeteria staff, custodians? How long before they give the upper staff a raise again as well??? Hire more teachers AND give them a raise!
April 14, 2014
Sadly, through the entire meeting of the Board, and all of the pats on the back, there was no thank you given to the teachers for what has happened to their salaries. Mr. Johnson, thank you for mentioning it. Mr. Scamihorn did make mention, but it was in the vein of what has happened, but still without "thank yous." Brief discussions took place of small raises. It's understandable even that no raise be given, as none was expected. What is troubling is that the teachers were not even given a thank you for sticking through all of this, as dedicated as they have been, taking the 2% cut, taking the furlough days. A small "thank you" would have been nice, not even in the form of more money, but a verbal thank you. One person whom I truly had appreciated was Mr. Banks. I may have missed it, but I didn't even hear him say thank you to the teachers.
Cautious Optimist
April 14, 2014
As a parent and teacher I say reduce class sizes first please. No furlough days and full step increase will feel like a raise, even if it is only restoring where we were. I would prefer to see the extra money spent on hiring new teachers. New professionals will be great for the schools and reduced class sizes are a must.
More Teachers
April 15, 2014
I agree with Cautious Optimist. As a teacher and parent no furloughs and a full step are nice but what I really would like to see is reduced class sizes. Huge classes mean lots of extra stress and it is hard on teachers,students and parents. Spend the money on lowering class sizes and making school more productive.
Agree but concerned
April 18, 2014
Cautious Optimist - I agree with you (as a fellow teacher and parent myself). However, Gwinett, Fulton and DeKalb have already done their job fairs and a lot of their hiring for the next school year. AND they pay a lot more than Cobb. Hopefully all of the good teacher candidates have not already been taken. Cobb needs to get on the ball. They are always way behind our surrounding county neighbors.
A great start
April 14, 2014
It is an election year, and Deal is doing his dog and pony show. I think it is great that the board wants to get back to business as usual, but they need to save for a rainy day. I have heard they are restoring, not giving raises, for 1% or the 2% they cut 5 years ago. In addition, no furloughs and well deserved step increases. That is all great but be cautious! They need to lower class sizes by two kids and keep stable. I am finding it odd that the state and county have all this money in an election year!
April 15, 2014
Me too. I thought it sounded suspicious when the headlines in October were, "We are broke" and now suddenly, there is a great amount of money. Sounds fishy to me.
Momof 2
April 16, 2014
I think they knew in October that it would not be quite so dire. It always seems the deficit is never as great as they predicted. I would like to see the CCSD manage their money efficiently. There is still quite a bit of waste in the system. Yet, when money is short, they always cut staff, instill furlough days etc to get the most sympathy.
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