Cobb Sets School Budget Calendar

The process begins in earnest in March, with mid-May approval expected.

The Cobb County School District's reputation for holding the line on administrative costs is being touted as the Cobb Board of Education prepares to dig into the fiscal year 2014 budget process.

Brad Johnson, the district's chief financial officer, reminded board members during a work session on Wednesday that Cobb's full-time equivalency (per student) expenditure of $7,553 per year is the lowest of any major school system in the metro Atlanta area.

Cobb's FTE general admistration cost of $83 -- compared to $1,342 in Atlanta Public Schools -- also is lower than DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett.

"These are really good numbers that we really need to advertise," Johnson said in his budget briefing, which also included a specific schedule for the budget calendar.

Last month Johnson offered a preliminary budget projection of $887 million, with a deficit of nearly $80 million.

Cobb school officials say 90 percent of the district's annual budget goes toward salaries and benefits for teachers and staff.

Cobb's instructional FTE spending -- which is spent directly in classrooms -- is $5,623, second only to Atlanta's $6,210 of the five school districts.

In his quarterly financial report, Johnson said Cobb has collected 69 percent of a projected $425 million in local property tax revenues through December 2012. That compares with a 71 percent rate the previous year, "but it's not a cause for concern."

Through the end of last year, Johnson said the district had spent only 48 percent of its revenues, compared with 49 percent during the halfway point of fiscal year 2012.

The amount of the other major source of revenue won't be known until the Georgia General Assembly passes its budget. Johnson is estimating Cobb will receive $401 million under the state Quality Basic Education Act.

When boad member Brad Wheeler asked why Cobb property tax collections are lagging, Johnson speculated that some taxpayers simply hadn't made their payments, but was confident the money would be collected.

Board members also were mindful of the $98 million fund balance, a figure whittled down by $28.2 million used to balance last year's budget.

"That's our shock absorber," board member Scott Sweeney said of the fund balance.

He also suggested that delays in accruing property tax collections will likely continue until the economy improves.

The following are key dates in the upcoming budget calendar:

  • March: Formal FY 2014 budget proposal made public, including tax digest update;
  • March 13: Board work session, time TBA;
  • April 17: Board work session, 8:30 a.m.;
  • April 25: Board work session, 7 p.m.;
  • May 1: Budget proposal posted to school district website, and Cobb public libraries notified how they can help the public read the budget online;
  • May 13: Public budget forum, 7 p.m.;
  • May 16: Approval of budget by the board, 7 p.m.


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