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Preliminary Cobb Schools Budget OK'd

The 6-1 vote keeps the school district moving toward final budget approval May 17, but no Board of Education members seem happy with the plan to close a $62.5 million deficit.

Updated 5 a.m. April 27

The Cobb County Board of Education voted 6-1 Thursday night to give preliminary approval to an $851 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

But school board members made it clear that their action was procedural and they are not prepared to give the current plan final approval May 17 without seeing other options.

The preliminary budget closes a projected $62.5 million deficit by increasing class size, reducing the number of teachers by 350, furloughing employees for five days, cutting the school year to 175 days, making media center paraprofessionals part-timers, delaying step raises by half a year and spending $21 million of reserve funds, among other actions.

The district needs 75 more teachers to decide in the next month that they'll leave after this school year to meet the 350-teacher reduction through attrition, The Marietta Daily Journal reported. If the district misses its attrition goal, it will to balance the budget.

At the request of West Cobb board member Lynnda Eagle and North Cobb's Kathleen Angelucci, Chief Financial Officer Mike Addison will present an alternative plan May 9 that uses three furlough days and a 177-day school year and makes parapros in elementary school media centers full-timers again.

Those changes combined would cost about $7 million: $6.1 million for the two unfurloughed days; $400,000 for transportation for the two school days; and $590,000 for the parapros.

David Banks of East and Northeast Cobb, who cast the vote against the preliminary budget, called instead for closing the gap entirely with the school system's $100 million in reserves. He wants no furlough days, no cut in the teacher corps and no reduction in parapro hours.

Banks' proposal would leave the school district with roughly $30 million in reserve funds if the current year's budget comes in right on balance, while Alison Bartlett said board policy is to keep one month's expenses—slightly more than $70 million—on hand.

Smyrna's Tim Stultz and central Cobb's Bartlett both raised concerns about the budget's not being sustainable because it relies on the use of $21 million from reserves and $20 million in excess SPLOST II money. That means the district will start the 2014 budget process with a $41 million hole.

South Cobb's David Morgan followed up on a parent's suggestion from the public-comment period to give school principals a certain amount of money to spend on classified personnel as they see fit, rather than dictating exact hours for parapros and others.

The school board will hold a public forum on the budget at 7 p.m. May 7 at the Central Office. The board will discuss changes at its 8:30 a.m. work session May 9 and will approve the final budget at its 7 p.m. meeting May 17.

You can read the full budget discussion, as well as public comments and a discussion of the board's new electoral map, in the CoverItLive blog above.

Note: This update originally said in error that one month's reserve was a mandate, rather than a policy goal, and had a math error on how much Banks' plan would leave in reserve. The article has been corrected.

Original Report

The Cobb County Board of Education is meeting at 7 p.m. for its regular meeting, after a 6:30 p.m. hearing on teacher salaries for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

The agenda for this meeting features a slew of recognitions and honors, all leading to a discussion and vote on a preliminary budget.

The is facing a from Chief Financial Officer Mike Addison that uses a cut of 350 teaching positions, larger classes, five furlough days, a half-year delay in step pay increases and $21 million from the reserve fund, among other measures, to balance the budget.

Teacher layoffs are possible if 350 teachers do not voluntarily leave the school district at the end of the school year, but Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and board members expressed a preference during this month's board work session if that happens.

Join us as for a conversation as the school board goes about its work tonight. Comment below or in the CoverItLive blog above.

Michael Jacobs April 27, 2012 at 02:18 PM
And I do feel confident, given the context of the email Banks sent me, that he was offering that bit of additional information as support for his position that it's safe to spend the reserves.
Brock Landers April 28, 2012 at 11:43 PM
One way to save money would be for Hinojosa to stop creating more and more high paying jobs in the District Office. He is layering in jobs that are not needed and taking away from the schools staffing levels.
Powder Springs April 29, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Cobb should have looked at what Hinojosa did to DISD, in Dallas Tx. He and his people destroyed that place. They spent tons of money and left that city in shambles. You should checkout the debt they left and all the teacher they laid off
Susan Poteat May 15, 2012 at 05:22 AM
This is a Cobb County School budget problem. Every Cobb County School employee should be part of the solution. All employees should have their work year shortened 5 days and work 5 furlough days. All raises should be frozen until all can have theirs. Why are the teachers bearing the entire burden of this problem?
Michael Jacobs May 15, 2012 at 09:58 AM
Hi, Susan: The furlough days would apply to all employees, not just the teachers. I'm sorry if that was unclear.

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