Cobb settles on tentative budget cuts: Cutting 182 teachers, dipping into reserve keys to $86.4M deficit trim
by Lindsay Field
April 30, 2013 12:24 AM | 8693 views | 18 18 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
After weeks of debate, the Cobb County School Board has approved a tentative budget with $86.4 million in proposed cuts for next school year.

The tentative budget will come up for a formal vote in three weeks. It was cobbled together by Board Chair Randy Scamihorn with support from board members David Banks, Brad Wheeler and Kathleen Angelucci. The group has worked to minimize the impact of the cuts on teachers and classroom sizes as much as possible.

Scamihorn’s revisions included reducing the number of cuts to in-school teaching positions from 195 to 182 while cutting the number of online teachers from 66 to 13. They recalculated the tax digest to reflect no growth, giving the district an extra $3.5 million to play with, and restored the number of teachers overseeing students serving in-school suspensions to 41 and bringing 26 part-time workers back into the classrooms.

Scamihorn presented his recommendations to Chief Financial Officer Brad Johnson in an email Monday morning.

In total, the group led by Scamihorn came up with 20 options to resolve the budget shortfall.

One key point was to draw $22.2 million from the district’s large reserves account, which currently stands at more than $100 million.

Not everyone was on board with Scamihorn’s recommendations.

Tim Stultz, Scott Sweeney and David Morgan urged their colleagues to think more about the district’s financial future and to make bigger, harder cuts now.

Stultz said the lack of cutting was “insulting.”

One area Stultz said he did not want to cut, however, was that of online teachers. An online teacher’s salary costs the district about half that of an in-school teacher.

“This really puts a dent in what we’re trying to accomplish,” Stultz said. “We need to look beyond just trying to budget this year’s budget.

“This is honestly the first time anything long term has been brought to the table as far as being able to make some longer term cuts and still be able to provide the good quality education here in Cobb County,” Stultz said. “I do have some serious concerns about going down from the 66 to the 13 (online teachers).”

Morgan asked Johnson what type of deficit the district is looking at for the next school year, to which he got a response of more than $80 million.

“We are just putting a Band-Aid on something and hoping something happens down the line when the last two or three years, it’s proven that there’s a new normal in place and what’s currently being proposed, I can’t reconcile in me to say that this is the best route for us to go as a school district, knowing that a potential $80-plus million will be staring us in the face when we sit down and have these conversations next school year,” he said.

The supporters responded

“We just keep hoping year after year but the (online classroom) concept is just a hope,” Angelucci said. “We’ve got nothing in the way of real numbers to prove that it will do what they say it will do, and I can’t with a clear conscience … increase that to something when we’re talking about an $86.4 million deficit.”

She also said she understood the need to look ahead, but it’s their duty as a board to “drill down” and look at every budget item line-by-line.

“I think that budgets have been presented to boards in the past and it’s always come out with cut teachers, increase class sizes, furlough days, no step increases and the board just says, ‘OK, that’s what we’ll do,’ instead of drilling down in all the nooks and crannies,” Angelucci said. “It’s a difficult job and a big job, but at the end of the day, it’s something we’re going to have to do.”

She said a majority of the emails she’s received since the budget discussions were started, involved parents who were concerned about the possibility of increased class sizes.

“We can’t continue to stuff children in classrooms and expect real instruction to take place,” she said. “We can’t continue to keep doing what we’ve been doing to our teachers. At some point that has to stop because if we want to continue to get the caliber of teachers that we currently have, then we need to give them the respect of diving into this.”

She accepted the budget with some hesitations, though, saying she is still concerned with the five furlough days being used on instructional days.

“I’m having real heartburn with that,” she said.

The tentative budget can still be tweaked in the meantime, and a final budget is scheduled to be approved May 16.

Before then, the board will have opportunities to have more in-depth conversations during their May 8 work session and to get feedback from the public at a May 14 hearing.

More details about the proposed tentative budget can be found on the district’s website at cobbk12.org.

Superintendent’s thoughts

Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said after the meeting that he does worry about some of the nuances in Scamihorn’s revised budget.

“I was hoping we could move forward with expanding our (online) learning,” he said. “That was one way we could start looking at reducing costs over time, but by only having a few dollars to do that, we won’t be able to gauge on that.”

The program will cost nearly $1 million to implement next school year if the 13 teaching positions are approved in the final budget.

Hinojosa also addressed Angelucci’s and Banks’ concerns about the impact on the classroom and the board’s passion in salvaging that.

“No one wants to have fewer teachers,” he said. “We all feel that impact. Nobody is happy about being in this situation. I don’t fault them for this passion. We were trying to look a little bit down the road so we wouldn’t be here this time next year.”
Comments
(18)
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Bill67
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May 01, 2013
We should've increased the number of furlough days. I'd rather double those than cut teachers. Make no mistake, they will come back with the same proposal next year as well. Cutting teachers is the easy way out. We need to get serious abt our kids. We need to think hard about eliminating the Sr citizen deduction. And we need to think hard abt raising the millage rate. I'm really confused that we can agree to a 700 million tax hike, but no one wants to pay an extra dime to ensure our kids don't see on the floor in all these new, fancy buildings were abt to put up.
Concerned teacher
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May 01, 2013
The ISS position should be cut from all schools. At my school the ISS teacher does not even run the ISS program, he runs errands for the principal and tries to act like an administrator. It is not uncommon to see the principal reading USA Today in the halls. He makes 110K benefits. There is so much fat to trim in Cobb.
Old School
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April 30, 2013
When I was in school, no such thing as ISS. If you did something bad enough to warrant suspension, you spent that time out of school at home. School work/tests missed, you got a big fat zero. None of this sitting in an ISS class doing your work. And if you got suspended, trust me, the punishment at home was worse!! Not like today where some "mommy and daddy's" say "Oh it must have been because so and so caused the problem"!! Those ISS teachers could be in a real classroom!!!

kahlislss
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April 30, 2013
Of course Hinojosa was disappointed that they cut online teachers, this is the direction he'd like to take this district... he has made it clear on many occasions that the teachers can be replaced by virtual learning, TFA etc. My kids both took an online class and although they passed with flying colors they didn't retain what they learned, and didn't enjoy learning it. The teacher did nothing for that salary. NOTHING. I think the CCSD needs to look at other expenses. Charge for transportation, do an audit of free lunches, eliminate the waste at the central office.
WTH?!
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April 30, 2013
So the students who can't keep themselves out of trouble are getting MORE teachers/staff to keep an eye on them ("restored the number of teachers overseeing students serving in-school suspensions to 41"), yet the students who want to learn are losing their teachers ("...reducing the number of cuts to in-school teaching positions from 195 to 182 while cutting the number of online teachers from 66 to 13").

More dumbing of America in Cobb County!

Just Sayin'....
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April 30, 2013
I am sorry that Mr. Sweeney does not like the budget as it stands, but he knew the situation was bad while he was board chair and just chose to raid SPLOST as a solution. Perhaps he should have been focused on this impending crisis while he and John Loud and others were convincing us to build more buildings that obviously we cannot staff!
djdjj
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May 01, 2013
LOL Yeah this is funny, Sweeney ignored a lot of things when he was chair, he was too busy "trying to change the culture" and trying to get SPLOST passed, rather than have a backbone and censure Banks for his ongoing unethical antics. Sad. I am impressed with Randy Scamihorn though. Don't think Banks will try to get by with much with him at the helm. Also, kudos to Kathy A. for asking the right questions and also having a backbone when it comes to ethics.
No real cuts
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April 30, 2013
Area superintendents still have jobs? How about central office? Why do the execs have car allowances and cellphones? Come on! Get with it and make some serious cuts at central office, put those positions back in the classroom and clean house!Cut out post-planning days, not instructional days!
cobbmomof2
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April 30, 2013
You are spot on! Why does Hinojosa have a personal cabinet? Each person has a much higher salary than classroom teachers. With his benefits he gets over $300,000 a year, that salary should dictate that he is hands on with the job, not delegating his responsibilities to area superintendents. Why are we paying for his cellphone, $800 a month for a car and his cable/internet bill? Post planning could definitely be cut. Four full days and two half days are more than enough time finish up paperwork.
Devlin Adams
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April 30, 2013
Disclaimer: No Area Superintendents or other superfluous Glover street denizens were harmed in the making of thie budget.
anonymous
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April 30, 2013
This mother of four could not be happier that they cut the "online learning" which is only working in the imaginations of educrats.

High schoolers need instruction by real people. They need their questions answered when they ask. We have not had good experiences with the online teachers. Why are they never evaluated?
I16
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April 30, 2013
Tim Stultz, Scott Sweeney and David Morgan urged their colleagues to think more about the district’s financial future and to make bigger, harder cuts now.

(1) Gentlemen; look at the empty or near empty school buses as they leave our neighbor hood school.

(2)Removal of the Walrus, cut his salary and take away his cell phone and extra staff, that are doing his job duties.



anonymous
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May 01, 2013
Not true - Stultz, Sweeney and Morgan were willing to go with the 295 cut of teachers, with 5 furlough days AND NO step increase for teachers. They had no suggestions in any way to bring those numbers down. They wanted to increase the budget by $3.9M and add 66 online teachers, all the while cutting current teachers in the classroom.
miker5670
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April 30, 2013
So where are the cuts at the county level, administration, transportation efficiency etc.? There has to be other cuts available outside the classroom. Have we ask any other third party for a review of our system to assist in suggestions? Second, maybe a lesson for the future... I truly think its time to think about how we start to produce revenue streams by providing services in county such as tutor programs, summer education camps etc. We just cannot continue to think about how to cut, lets think about how produce.
irked
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April 30, 2013
A very interesting concept, but you really have to consider the people involved.

Can you imagine Connell and his buds with their hands on these revenue streams?
Kick the Can
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April 30, 2013
If you think this year is bad, wait until next year.

Watching the meeting yesterday, one could not miss that Scamihorn is using HIS tax digest assumption to balance the budget.

He suggested no change in the tax digest while it's clear the tax commissioner states that Cobb in in for a 2.3% decline. The CFO agrees with the tax commissioner.

This plays out badly should Scamihorn's guess not materialize.

Not quite the Hope & Change we need - gambling with money you don't have. The scariest part - Angelucci, Banks and Wheeler agree with the GUESS.

Apparently, they know more than the tax commissioner about Cobb's revenue.

This aspect of the story is also an interesting omission from the article.
Jill B
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April 30, 2013
Mr. Schultz seems to complain about the work of others while offering few concrete suggestions of his own. No matter how you look at it, $84K is a lot of money. Ms. Angelucci is right, these types of budget cuts must be looked at line by line. Few will agree with all cuts but overall its a budget we can live with.
common sense
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April 30, 2013
It has been since 2007 that the economy has been hit and Cobb school has been dealing with a deficit. For 6 years now every spring it is the same conversation and same answers. 6 years now in a row how to we cut 80 or so million from the budget and knowing that we are going to be having the same conversation next year is crazy. Why is the topic of raising the millage rate never seriously considered? I do not want higher taxes but how much will that really affect me, 20 bucks a month, maybe? It would raise an extimated 20 or so million. Even if we passed it now it would not help us until this time next year, some one needs to look down the road and start solving problems for the long term.
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