The has to go back to the chalkboard after the Board of Education failed to approve the fiscal 2013 budget Thursday night.
The school board has until June 30 to pass a budget for the year that starts July 1, but after the Thursday, the path forward is unclear. A special meeting will be scheduled to search for an answer.
The seven board members staked out at least four distinct positions on the proposed $841.9 million budget—none of them matching the administration's recommendation.
Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and Chief Financial Officer Mike Addison entered the meeting recommending the on a preliminary basis.
It features 350 fewer teachers through attrition, five furlough days for all full-time employees, 175 school days, the use of $21.2 million from reserves, school library paraprofessionals’ hours cut to 60 percent time, a half-year delay in step pay raises for teachers and other eligible employees, and an increase of two students in the average class size.
How should the Cobb school board balance the budget?
At the board’s request, Addison prepared three alternatives, presented at a and brought up again Thursday:
- Alternative A would restore the elementary school library parapros to full time at a cost of $591,000.
- Alternative B would change to three furlough days and 177 school days at a cost of $6.5 million.
- Alternative C would switch to three furlough days and restore the elementary school parapros at a cost of $7.1 million.
Banks: Spend Reserve
Post 5 board member David Banks of Northeast and East Cobb added Alternative D. It would reduce the furlough days to two, hold classes on 178 days, restore the elementary school parapros and keep class sizes at the current level for a total cost of about $29.1 million.
Banks cast the only vote in favor of his proposal, which he based on the argument that the school district shouldn’t hurt classroom education and teachers while it has tens of millions of dollars in the bank.
The school district has a fund balance just under $100 million now, would dip to about $78 million under the administration budget proposal and would fall to almost $71 million under Alternative C.
The school district spends a little more than $70 million a month, and the administration wants to keep at least one month’s expenses in reserve.
Eagle, Angelucci: 3 Furlough Days
Banks’ alternative met its demise after Hinojosa said he reluctantly would support Alternative C to get a budget passed, although he still preferred the original proposal.
But Alternative C failed on a 4-3 vote, with Lynnda Eagle of West Cobb, Chairman Scott Sweeney of East Cobb, and Kathleen Angelucci of North and Northeast Cobb voting yes. Alternative C matched a proposal Eagle made April 26.
Banks didn’t support Alternative C because he sees the cuts as too deep while the school system has money in the bank.
Morgan: 5 Furlough Days
David Morgan, Alison Bartlett and Tim Stultz, on the other hand, opposed Alternative C because it wouldn’t cut deeply enough.
Morgan said Alternative C would bring the school district dangerously close to the one-month threshold for the reserve fund.
He backed Alternative A, restoring the parapros but following the administration’s proposal for five furlough days.
Bartlett and Stultz called for something more dramatic.
Stultz: Deeper Cuts Needed
Citing the use of reserve funds and $20.5 million in surplus SPLOST II money to help close a the 2013 budget, with neither option available next year, Stultz argued that the board was creating a huge hole in the 2014 budget from the start.
Sweeney asked where Stultz would cut at least $54 million from what has been consistently portrayed as a bare-bones budget, and the Smyrna representative said personnel because those costs make up the bulk of the budget.
Addison said each teacher costs an average of $75,000, so the district would have to cut an additional 720 teachers to save $54 million.
Bartlett: Deeper Cuts or Lawsuit
Central Cobb's Bartlett has pounded the drum about the Cobb school district’s unsustainable budget, and she backed up Stultz on Thursday night but with a twist.
She said she was willing to support one of the options on the table to get a budget passed if the board agreed to sue the state of Georgia to fully fund the Quality Basic Education formula for distributing state money.
Cobb gets $72 million less per year than the QBE formula dictates.
Hinojosa noted that he led the Dallas Independent School District into a lawsuit of many districts against the state of Texas, and after two years the court case ended with a “victory” for the school districts that got them no additional money.
Sweeney searched for an option that a majority of the board could support, but the impasse was the night’s winner.