Still, the leader of Cobb’s legislative delegation says the state can’t pay money it doesn’t have.
All together, the state owes school districts across Georgia nearly $5 billion.
Mike Addison, Cobb’s chief financial officer, said that since 2003, his district has not received $353 million owed by the state. Marietta City has not received nearly $27 million it is owed.
Neither of the districts expect to ever see that money, but they do hope the cuts will stop as they go forward.
“Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue decided that the state couldn’t fully fund their (Quality Basic Education) commitment, so he implemented austerity cuts,” Addison said. “We just want (the state) to restore what they do owe us each year.”
Likewise, Marietta City’s school board has asked only that future cuts are minimized, spokesman Thomas Algarin said.
Residents fund the state education department through sales and income taxes, and state officials use what is called a QBE formula to determine how much money per student the state will pay school districts.
For fiscal 2013, which begins July 1, Addison said Cobb plans to spend $7,898 per student, and the state should pay 46 percent of that, or $3,649 per student. The district is also facing a $62 million deficit in its fiscal 2013 budget of more than $841 million.
State law requires the state to pay the QBE money, Addison said.
But Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), who sits on the state’s education committee, said the state can’t spend money it doesn’t have.
“Relative to the QBE law, even though we’re off that some, I think we’re doing very well,” he said. “Education has been significantly protected and will continue to be as a priority. Are we funding like we’d like to? No. We’d like to give more, but in our times we aren’t able to.”
Setzler said that while some other state agencies saw their budgets slashed by up to 25 percent, the education department only saw cuts of between 8 percent and 9 percent.
“(Education was) protected compared to the average agency,” Setzler said. “As we’ve tried to replenish funds, (education has) replenished funds faster than other agencies.”
Earlier this month, Cobb school board member David Banks, who represents northeast Cobb, asked whether the district could sue the state over the cuts.
“If the state legally owes us that money, why haven’t we had tried to get it? If you don’t ask, you won’t get it,” he said. “That’s our money, and it belongs to us. … If we owed the state, I guarantee they’d be coming after us.”
Cobb Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa said he is not ready to pursue legal action.
“The board and staff would have to have an extremely convincing argument to persuade me,” he said. “I want to work through the current system first. If that is not successful, then other options might be considered.”