It continues to remain quiet on the budget front according to most of the Cobb County School Board members.
“So far, I have not had one call or suggestion from other board members on changes,” Board Chair Randy Scamihorn said Tuesday afternoon. “I believe there’s often a lot of truth in ‘No news is good news,’ so I’ll lean towards that.”
The board is set to vote on the fiscal year 2014 budget, which includes an $86.4 million shortfall, during Thursday night’s meeting. They will be looking at $807.6 million in revenue and $894 million in expenditures.
Scamihorn said he has heard from teachers.
“They are concerned about two main things: the number of furlough days and not getting the other half of the (salary) step increase,” he said.
Furlough days could save Cobb Schools $15.5 million and the half-step increase $5 million.
Other items outlined in the recommended budget to resolve the deficit include using $22.2 million from the reserve fund, reducing 16 central office positions for a $2.1 million savings and cutting 182 teaching positions for $13.9 million.
The board OK’d its tentative budget to include these savings and about 15 others during last month’s work session.
It was approved 4-3, with board members David Morgan, Tim Stultz and Scott Sweeney opposing.
‘Very challenging times’
Morgan said Tuesday if the same budget is presented before the board Thursday night, he will vote against it again.
“These are very challenging times and nobody wants cuts but we also have to have our collective eyes on the next year,” he said. “We have to do what we have to do to put ourselves in the best possible position moving forward and I don’t think we did enough of that this go round.”
On the other end of the spectrum is David Banks, who favored the tentative budget, but believes there could still be fewer cuts.
“I still have some issues that I’d like to get worked out, because we’re cutting a lot of positions and we don’t need to be raising these classrooms (sizes) if we don’t have to, and I don’t think we have to,” he said.
Banks said that according to the quarterly report presented last week, the district is potentially looking at expending 3 percent less than originally budgeted, which is about $25 million.
“The money is there and will be there (at the end of the year),” he said. “There’s a lot of room to save some of these jobs if the board wants.” He also said he won’t be bringing his own budget to this board meeting.
“I’ve already done that once and nobody wanted to listen to it,” he said. “I know I’ll have an amendment to try and get more of the 49 percenters into the budget.”
Another thing the board will vote on Thursday that members said they have received a lot of feedback from teachers and parents on is the recommended five furlough days in the school calendar for next year.
“There’s a myriad of opinions on it,” Scamihorn said. “The teachers have a preference and almost all of them are looking for the days to be in February.”
Banks made that recommendation during the work session but was informed by Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa that according to state regulations and required seat time for students, the district can only use three furlough days per semester.
Banks doesn’t believe that’s the case, though.
“That’s not the law,” he said. “If you look up the Georgia law … it basically says that if you have furlough days, it’ll be given on a Monday or Friday or it could fall in conjunction with a holiday, unless the board takes a different action.” He argues that it doesn’t reference seat time in the law.
“The board members I’ve talked to have heard the same thing from teachers and parents, but I’m not sure if they’ll listen or not,” Banks concluded.
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. with public comments. A salary hearing will be held beforehand at 6:30 p.m. It will be in the Cobb School Boardroom at 514 Glover St., Marietta.
For a copy of the agenda, visit cobbk12.org.