Committee Rejects Proposed School Budget

May 30, 2014
Dwayne Page

The DeKalb County Board of Education will have to revisit it's tentative budget for the 2014-15 year after the budget committee of the county commission Thursday night unanimously rejected it.

"I don't think this committee is ready to have a tax increase to present to the county commission," said budget committee member Wayne Cantrell.

The DeKalb County Board of Education Wednesday night adopted the tentative school budget and sent it to the budget committee on Thursday but the proposed $21.1 million spending plan does not have sufficient revenues to fund it without a property tax increase, which members of the budget committee said would require an additional six to seven cents.

Total revenues to fund the proposed school budget comes to $19,193,975 versus $21,151,531 in expenditures, a difference of $1,957,556. To help close the gap, the school board proposes to plug in $898,000 from Basic Education Program (BEP) reserves, $89,981 in Technology reserves, and $700,575 in unassigned money from the fund balance. Still, the board would have to come up with another $273,000 from the county commission or make cuts by that amount in order to balance the proposed budget.

The school board voted 4-3 to adopt the tentative budget Wednesday night. Members Billy Miller, Kenny Rhody, John David Foutch, and Charles Robinson voted in favor. Chairman Johnny Lattimore and members W.J. (Dub) Evins, III and Doug Stephens voted against it.

"I'm in favor of a large number of programs in here. Some of them have just been brought to my attention. In order for me to know what I'm voting on, I'd rather know a little more about it so I vote no," said Evins.

"I'm going to vote no. This is the first time that I've seen these nine pages (budget) and I'm not going to put my name to it without digging into it deeper," said Stephens.

"I'm going to vote no. There are some things I think we could cut," said Chairman Lattimore.

To meet the requirements of the Affordable Care ACT the Board has budgeted for 2014-15 school year a “defined Employer contribution” for the health insurance program, effective for coverage beginning January 1, 2015.

Based on calculations this will make the “Limited” health insurance option affordable to all eligible employees, according to Director of Schools Mark Willoughby. The Board will also pay 100% of the cost of a GAP insurance plan for each employee enrolled in the “Limited” plan. The GAP plan will offset the deductible and out of pocket expense of the “Limited” plan.

Again, based on projections it is anticipated that the overall cost to the School System will essentially remain the same. However, should enrollment in this plan exceed projections the school system could incur additional cost, according to Director Willoughby.

The proposed budget includes funding for a new second grade teacher as well as an English teacher, Chemistry teacher, and a part time English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at DCHS. "There will be a second grade teacher added simply because of our (enrollment) numbers. We're planning on adding an English teacher and a Chemistry teacher at the high school in order for us to change to a modified block schedule with five- seventy minute periods for the state mandated tested course subjects We also need to add a part-time ESL teacher based on the (enrollment) numbers we already have right now which have gone up. It's been a long time since we've added any teachers at the high school but we have approximately 225 to 230 students coming into the ninth grade (from DeKalb West and DeKalb Middle School)," said Director Willoughby.

A total of $25,045 has been added to the proposed budget for additional supplements including two DCHS assistant soccer coaches (one for the girls team and one for the boys team totaling $5,570), two assistant DeKalb Middle School soccer coaches ($2,790), a DeKalb Middle School assistant basketball coach ($1,395), a DeKalb Middle School and DCHS Cross Country coach (2 positions totaling $5,000), an Athletic Director supplement ($5,000), an assistant DeKalb West School basketball coach ($1,395), an assistant DeKalb West Baseball coach ($1,395), and a DeKalb West School Cross Country coach ($2,500).

The proposed budget includes funding for a half-time speech pathologist. "We are presently contracting those services. Our system needs a full time person and the budget would have to be amended if one is found. The funds are in the proposed budget they would have to be transferred into the correct category and line item," said Director Willoughby.

The proposed budget includes funding for four Academic Coaches totaling $200,000 to help teachers and students.

A new full time Technology position is budgeted at $30,000. The school system already has a Technology Director and two part time employees in this category. "I believe since 2006, we have added 1,500 devices and we're fixing to add a lot more. We need to add this new technology person," said Director Willoughby.

The Transportation Director would get a four thousand dollar pay raise again this year in this proposed budget. His salary would go to $36,710. "Last year we increased the Transportation Director category (salary) by approximately $4,000. We said at that time that we would do it again this year," said Willoughby. The pay raise would bring the salary more in line with transportation directors in other counties.

Funds are also included in the budget for Odyssey Ware. "This is a credit recovery program and we have been paying for that out of the Race to the Top money. That money has gone away so we have added that ($20,000) into the budget (Under Other Contracted Services)," Willoughby said.

"We have added ($6,000) in copy paper for schools (Under Other Supplies and Materials for Summer School)," Willoughby continued.

Twenty thousand dollars is budgeted for New Attendance Software under Other Contracted Services.

Under Evaluation and Testing $37,000 is budgeted including new money of $18,000 for Universal Screener and $4,000 for ACT software. "We will be doing state required assessments of students throughout the year through Universal Screening. The ACT software will help students score better on the ACT," said Director Willoughby.

While the school system normally anticipates having to use some reserves to balance its budget each year, it has not yet had to do so. Last year (2012-13), the district projected a deficit but actually ended up around $300,000 to the good by the end of the fiscal year. Director Willoughby Thursday night told the budget committee and county mayor that he did not feel as comfortable this year. "Balancing the budget with reserves is not a good thing to do. This year I feel its a sure bet that we'll be using some of those reserves," said Willoughby

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