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3 Fayette BoE members tell staff: Cut this budget some more

Three of the five members of the Fayette County Board of Education instructed system staff to take the proposed budget back to the cutting board. The proposed budget exceeded expected income by nearly $19 million.

During the May 24 budget work session for the FY 2011-2012 school year that begins July 1, the three — Chairman Bob Todd, Vice Chairman Marion Key and freshman member Sam Tolbert — told Superintendent Jeff Bearden to take his recommended budget and prioritize its components for the May 31 meeting so that the nearly $19 million in expenses exceeding revenues can be pared down significantly.

Bearden near the end of the budget meeting said he was recommending the General Fund budget that included $189,070,871 in expenses and $170,228,865 in revenues, a difference of $18.84 million. That shortfall could be made up by using the expected June 30 fund balance of $19,139,574, thereby resulting in a June 30, 2012 fund balance of $297,568, Bearden said.  

Spending the June 30 projected fund balance of $19.1 million to balance the budget would leave the school system with a year ending balance on June 30, 2012 with approximately $300,000 to try and ride out the FY 2012-2013 school year that is expected to see a continuation of falling revenues and increasing expenses such as healthcare costs.

Board members Terri Smith and Janet Smola said they supported Bearden’s recommended budget and his recommendation that the school board begin meeting this summer to determine ways to cut expenses for the FY 2012-2013 school year. Smola added that some cost-cutting measures could be implemented in the second half of the upcoming school year.

“My goal is to get the budget adopted and then to meet immediately for 2013 to get to significant cuts, maybe $15 million, if the board will accept this,” Bearden said.

For their part, board members Sam Tolbert, Marion Key and Bob Todd disagreed with putting off the determination of where to cut expenses. Tolbert suggested that Bearden prioritize items for the May 31 budget work session and be prepared to present a list of those items so that up to half of the $19.1 million fund balance on June 30 be available on June 30, 2012 rather than the $297,568 that would remain if Bearden’s recommended budget were adopted.

Todd reiterated the idea of prioritizing a list of potential cuts that would provide a cushion for the fund balance going in to the 2012-2013 school year next July.

Todd and Key agreed with Tolbert and, though no vote was taken, Bearden was tasked with fulfilling the majority opinion.
Bearden indicated that he would do as instructed, adding that those re-worked figures would have a definite impact on employees.

Also at the meeting, the General Fund numbers had been re-worked from the previous week with the result that what had been projected as $169.6 million in revenues is now listed at $170.2 million and what had been listed as $191.8 in expenses is now listed at $189 million.

The biggest difference was in personnel dollars, said Comptroller Laura Brock. Those re-worked figures, which Brock noted had been extremely preliminary, included variables such as Social Security that are customarily entered at a standard rate of 7.65 percent for each employee. Calculated by hand, those numbers led to a re-adjustment of more than $2 million in salaries and benefits package that totals approximately $170 million.

The approximately $600,000 that was added to the revenue side came from the inclusion in the General Fund of transfers from the community schools revenue account that holds deposits from facilities rentals, driver’s education and other income sources.

Whatever the FY 2011-2012 budget turns out to be, the reality is that the school board has a number of tough decisions to make long before the 2012-2013 school year begins. A glance at the budgets of the county’s other tax-levying entities tells that tale.

Fayette’s student enrollment figures continue to drop and that decline is expected on continue at least for another year. Those enrollment numbers, now at about where they were a decade ago, directly translate into the dollars that come from the Georgia Dept. of Education despite other state cuts that may or may not be forthcoming.

And at the local level, the tax digest continues to fall precipitously for the second year, again generating fewer tax dollars to fund the school system.

For the Fayette school system there are few places to turn given that the board for the past two years has levied the maximum millage rate allowed, 20 mills, under state law.

While not a straight apples-to-apples comparison, the situation with the school system next door in Coweta County is close enough to reference.

Coweta’s school board this week tentatively adopted a $165.5 million budget for FY 2011-2012, a decrease of $200,000. Coweta has more students, more employees, better pay for teachers and they did not furlough teachers last year. And, being fiscally conservative, Coweta has $18 million in a reserve account that only the school board can touch.



""While not a straight apples-to-apples comparison, the situation with the school system next door in Coweta County is close enough to reference.
Coweta’s school board this week tentatively adopted a $165.5 million budget for FY 2011-2012, a decrease of $200,000. Coweta has more students, more employees, better pay for teachers and they did not furlough teachers last year. And, being fiscally conservative, Coweta has $18 million in a reserve account that only the school board can touch.""

Todd said this would happen when "they" voted to restore the rest of the pay taken a couple of years ago. If the Fayette County Board of Education doesn't improve their handling of money/decisions, they are going to start making Clayton County Board of Ed look like a bunch of Geniuses! Who in their right minds would come work in this county after all this. The only bright side of this situation is that if there was anywhere else for these teachers in Fayette to go to right now; I think there would be a MASSIVE exit. So for right now, we might not see the true fallout from this mess. The powers-that-be have always worked from the idea that teachers should feel lucky to work in this county and will setlle for less $. This will only work for so long before the best and brightest will no longer look at this county as the place to be.

BHH's picture

It looks to me like the budget should be dropping dramatically. Not going up.

Thanks to the 3 on the Board for holding the line in this.

The other 2 should get their syrup buckets and go home.


I am not here to say that the school system shouldn't cut it's budget more, but I find it hard to understand why we can do that allowing our students less teacher time, when we refuse to cut other functions of the budget!

It is OK to lower the expectations of the kids instruction, but not to cut a deputy, a patrolman, a clerk, a fireman, or any other department!

It seems those jobs are more important to have than kids instruction!

I say if we can do with fewer teachers and can still do our job for the kids, then we can still get the job done with fewer other employees.

Income is not going to get sufficiently better for some years to continue such spending and to keep upping all kinds of taxes when 15% are out of work (forget the 10%--it is false).

Yes, we will maybe end up with more unemployed, or at best not reduce the current unemployment, but taxes are unfair now to too many people.

BHH's picture

operates on less than half of the school system taxes in every county in the state and the schools even get state money.

Give me a break.

How the hell does it cost so much to park kids in a room for a few hours and lecture to them.

The fact is that most of them don't need the teacher's individual attention, yet so much is made of this.

When I was in school, the kids that didn't get it just asked a classmate for help and they got it.

If you want to increase taxes, just make it "for the kids".

The kids are much more resilient that they are given credit for.


Want to know the problems with Fayette Schools? Ask ANY of the hundreds of school employees (or their spouses -- we are all aware of the truth) and they will tell you two things.

Problem one - the Finance Department is clueless about what is happening. Repeatedly, that department has been wrong about the budget. For example, it forecast a deficit a couple of years ago and said employee pay HAD to be cut in order for the schools to survive. Pay was slashed, but then there was a massive surplus at the end of the school year.

Problem 2 - the school district's central office is staffed with many people who do little more than protect themselves. They create work for employees to justify their own hugh salaries. They "blackball" employees who dare to speak the truth. Worst of all, they protect each other from the cuts that are most needed - reduction in the number of overpaid and underworked employees there.

Again, there is no mystery here. Employees will all tell you the same thing (teachers, secretaries, bus drivers, parapros, and even many principals and assistant principals). These are the 2 major problems with our schools. Our children will be the victims of a corrupt system as a great school district begins its deterioration. Employees, in record numbers, will seek jobs elsewhere while the district will find it very difficult to attract the best teachers and administrators (warm bodies will fill jobs, not qualified educators).

BHH's picture

start over.

In every county in Georgia.

Or at least the metro area.


grassroots's picture

As for forecasting big shortfalls in the spring then having more money than expected by fall is the MO of the entire education system across the country. So is the intimidation of whistle blowers. Good points.Fayette deserves better than what has ruined most of the country's school systems. I think now that Todd has the other two votes we can count on things turning around and staying in check for the better.

The school district is getting what is due to them,because when you FIRED your employee when their on bed rest due to a high risk pregnacy.And my baby passed away.And I hope everyone in office feel pain like a did. Start treating your employees right and maybe thing will change.

suggarfoot's picture

The straw that broke the camel's back was the extra schools. Rivers, built for over 600, has about 40 kids. Just to keep it open and maintained is costing us a small fortune. That thing was built for developers, not for us.

Several of the other schools don't have enough enrollment. The over building was the handy-work of the old 3 to 2 vote of Smith, Smola, and Wright. Now we have a a majority of knowledgeable people, but it has come almost too late. It will take years and years to undo the handy work of the 3 amigos.

There is no doubt if we hadn't spent multi millions on those extra schools, and now their maintenance, we would be it much better shape. All county taxpayers, teachers, and kids, are paying for the arrogance and ignorance of Smith, Smola, and Wright.

So sad.

ginga1414's picture

It will take years to undo the damage. And, Suggarfoot is right about arrogance and ignorance causing the damage. We, also, have the problem of a severely crippled economy to deal with.

It is so obvious that the Rivers school was built to facilitate and justify the hundreds of homes the developers wanted to build and the West Fayetteville Bypass the County wants to build.

The Lester Family Limited Partnership sold 60 acres to the Fayette County School System so they could build a new high school on the back side of Phase I of the West Bypass.

Unfortunately, the Rivers school was built before the County was able to ramp up the Bypass. Now we've got an empty school and no new homes to supply students for the school.

We still have a very bad economy but the County is continuing to build the Bypass. The County budget is, according to one official, "about to fall off the cliff."

Suggarfoot is so right about the "taxpayers, teachers, and kids paying for the arrogance and ignorance." And, no doubt, they will be paying for that the rest of their lives.

When it comes to the West Bypass, homeowners and taxpayers will be paying for the arrogance and ignorance of Smith, Maxwell, Hearn, Frady, and Horgan for the rest of our lives.

If we add Mayor Steele to Smith, Maxwell, Hearn, Frady, Horgan, Smith, Smola, and Wright, there are nine people who have and are continuing to bring Fayette County to her knees.

If something isn't done to stop the spending madness, Fayette County will virtually be destroyed.

grassroots's picture

One of Smith's contentions was you cannot change a SPLOST project that was on the referendem. Well, now HB240 has changed all that,allowing to use money to offset budjet shortages and wasteful projects no longer needed. WFB is no longer nor never was needed. Go to BOC meeting and talk about the bill and the 3 holdouts to longer use that as an excuse.
SPLOSTOPINION for more details.

Who decides what is no longer needed? Sounds like another stupid vote getter to me.

BHH's picture

someone such as colleges or vocational schools.

Or even sold to the highest bidder.


NUK_1's picture

With Tolbert now on board, at least there is a majority that realizes how idiotic it is to submit an unbalanced budget to the tune of a 18.8 mil deficit when you are already maxed-out on millage and have been for a while and run a top-heavy and bloated system that only succeeds due to above average parents, students and teaching staff.

The sheer incompetence of the Finance Dept of the BOE is a problem that needs to be immediately addressed. There is simply no excuse for the pathetic forecasting that dept has done for years and continues to do. Forget about what the "state" gives or doesn't or decides to not fulfill...they still aren't anywhere close to what becomes reality. No way in hell in the private sector this kind of incompetence is tolerated like it has been with the FC BOE until this point.

Mike King's picture

Very well stated. It simply boils down to a mindset of those employed within government to spend and spend. What is sad is that a year ago that proposed budget would have been approved by Smola leaving the BOE with little to no reserve cash. That would have 'necessitated' an emergency millage increase while maintaining the bloated bureaucracy.

Okay NUK_1, but does Tolbert really know what is going on either? He voted to give back the pay cut ("with interest" in his words at one of the meetings) knowing it would increase the budget. Now he is on the side to cut the budget (by $10M to split the difference). Even with the numbers the finance department gave the board it was obvious to tax payers that restoring pay was not sustainable for more than a year. Why did the board vote to return pay weeks before getting the true picture? Seems short sighted.

Mike King's picture

How about restoring the teacher's pay cut to previous levels with a commensurate reduction in the number of 'staffers' that work outside the classroom. In other words, cut overhead and leave those in the classrooms to the work they're charged to do.

Mike, sounds like to me that these folks need a good ol'fashioned Manpower Survey! And someone with the nads to take action on the results! I heard a sad story this am while talking to a local physician--his Father was in public education for 41 yrs and recently said to him "I would NOT put a child of mine in the public school system today." A sad commentary indeed.

Mike King's picture

Your physician is dead on correct as I am glad my kids are far beyond the age of local schools. I would like to believe that should I have grandkids that they could be afforded the same degree of professionalism given to my three kids while in school in PTC. This bunch of fools would fire teachers so as to maintain jobs for those employed as staffers.

It's far beyond time for an adult beverage my friend.

Dondol's picture

I know its just a drop in the bucket, but every high school has 11 coaches on staff just for Football. 11 coaches for approx. 45 players, hell that's a better ratio than any classroom has, go figure!

Reducing coaches would not reduce staff. The 11 coaches are for 9th, grade, JV, and varsity and in some programs can be over 100 players. The coaches are only paid a supplement for coaching if they are a teacher and you would still need the teaching position filled. A lot of the coaches in all sports are community coaches who are only paid a nominal amount through the booster clubs as a thank you. Why does everyone what to attack extra curriculars in a budget crunch? Some of these coaches are getting about $1.75 hour for the extra time they put in.

Mike King's picture

If McIntosh has 11 football coaches that would equal one per victory over the last how many years? Face facts, if they are not teaching positions, then consideration for elimination must be given. How many assistant principals? HR specialists? BOE finance types who have yet to produce accurate figures?

I think the picture is clear, there exists enough positions of 'make work' that get in the way of classroom teachers trying to do their job.

It is much easier to hire fewer teachers for next years session thereby cutting the budget, than to tick off the teachers and the school board earlier.

Teachers would rather have a raise than to keep all of the teachers!

The kids pay the bill as they are considered second, not first.

Wouldn't be so bad if they would lay-of the worst teachers instead of the best. Seniorty is king.

Ben, give us some numbers on how much better Coweta is. How many more students? How many more employees? How much better is the pay? Why aren't the FC teachers jumping ship? If Coweta pay is better and they have more employees how is the budget $20M less? The gap between the two systems' budgets doesn't give us the whole picture. Need more details. Does Ben even read the comments??? NUK, King, and Round bring up good suggestions but since Coweta has it right let's learn from their success.

Dr. Todd, in last night's "work session" of the FCBOE (more closely resembled a poorly executed PR strategy) issued a challenge to the audience to come up with a better plan for balancing the board's budget. Hopefully, full disclosure of expenditures will be forthcoming so our brightest minds can get to work, because comptroller Laura Brock was in a daze last evening ("ooooh! Almost forgot about that board meeting! Honey, where's my calculator?"). Smola offered something of worthwhile consideration (budgeting for a several million dollar fund balance by reducing teacher and student work/attendance days might not be the wisest move...), but the person behind me had the best idea I heard all evening...Stop overspending! What a concept. From the board, I heard only one brief comment about paring the numbers of administrators (oh, yeah, they did rid us of several of those highly paid secretaries last year...thanks, guys..). not to pick on the big guys or anything such as that, but, as a teacher, it is disheartening to be so devalued as a professional, an accomplished one at that, to witness my administrators shooting the breeze with each other so often as I hurriedly pass them to take a student to the clinic or elsewhere...or see them taking long lunches in the name of " supervision" (mingling with the rabble?)...or maybe just mowing the school lawn...
Will someone smarter than a teacher (we are rarely consulted on much of anything) take up crotchety old Dr. Todd on his challenge? But do it politely, or you'll be harshly shushed as was the audience was last night when we murmured our agreement with Smola. Thank you.

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