Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo gave another dismal financial forecast to school board members during its annual “Trends in Education” work session on Thursday night.
Candler Howell, assistant superintendent of financial management, cited losses in local, state and federal funding and a slight increase in the education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax collections.
Over the last five years, the district has lost $25 million in local funds, including $9.9 million in the current fiscal year due to decreased tax digest values, increased benefits costs and student growth. The district reports having 353 more students on its 10th day of school than it did on the same day last year.
Howell said he received preliminary tax digest information Wednesday and it is continuing the downward trend.
The car tag ad valorem tax will change as of March 1, and Howell said officials are unclear as to how it may impact local funding. The same goes for House Bill 797, which outlines funding for charter schools, Howell said.
“We know the state is going to set up some reserves to try to help us stay even,” Howell said.
CCSD reports losing $121 million in state funding over the last five years, including $26 million in austerity cuts during the current fiscal year.
Howell said Gov. Nathan Deal will present his budget in January and so far, there is no indication that cuts will be restored.
“I would think he’s expecting the economy to not be as rosy as we hope it would be,” Howell said.
In the last five years, the district received $28 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, but does not anticipate receiving those funds this year’s at a projects loss of $1.1 million in federal grants for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
Ed-SPLOST returns are up 8.8 percent, but Petruzielo said that the increase does not cover the 8 percent loss in SPLOST collections seen each year since 2008.
“If you’re minus-eight for four years and you’re plus-eight for one year, that doesn’t get you back to where you need to be,” Petruzielo said. “We expect to end up with about five percent growth, but when you’ve had 32 percent of reductions over a four-year period, that five percent, we’re certainly happy to see it, but it’s not a fund balance.”
The operating budget is currently $28 million. BOE policy recommends having 12 to 15 percent previous year’s expenditures in reserves, which would mean at least $36.6 million in the reserve fund.
Petruzielo said it is “very risky” to have little in reserves, particularly for such a large school system.
“Our fund balance is way down from where it should be,” Petruzielo said. “It’s way below (what) the board’s policy calls for, and we’re not making any excuses for that. Obviously, everything else programmatically has taken a hit so the fund balance has as well.”
District officials also addressed the progress of new programs and initiatives, including a change in virtual learning opportunities.
Brian Hightower, assistant superintendent of schools operations, said Georgia Virtual School courses have been approved for all high school students, which had previously only been approved for students whose courses could not be scheduled at their home school.
Also, the GaVS courses are at no cost to the student if taken within the six-period school day, and an additional $250 per additional semester course. The courses can now be taken at home or on campus.
District spokeswoman Barbara Jacoby said the district-sponsored Apex courses have previously been a more popular choice among students because they could be taken during school.
Another new initiative, Bring Your Learning Device, has about half of the schools already participating, Assistant Superintendent Bobby Blount said. The initiative has already seen classes using Quick Response codes, speed research activities and an introduction to the use of Global Positioning Satellite technologies, he said.
“We have about one-third of our elementary schools signed up, about half of our middle schools and all but one of our high schools,” Blount said of the volunteer initiative.
Blount said Creekview High has not signed up to participate in BYLD yet as the new principal, Dr. Adrian Thomason, is settling into his role. So far, behavioral incidents correlating wit the BYLD initiative have been “very, very minimal,” Blount said.
Assistant Superintendent Letitia Cline outlined new programs using federal Race To The Top dollars, including the Cherokee Academies and the implementation of the Common Core curriculum.
Dr. Carla Cohen, recently retired assistant superintendent over the Academies initiative, said all six academies are over projected enrollment, with over 2,733 students at the STEM and Fine Arts Academies.
Trey Olsen, assistant superintendent of personnel management, introduced a new evaluation system for teachers, the Teacher/Leader Keys Effectiveness System.
Olsen said for the 2012-13 school year, a portion of the evaluation system which includes survey input from third- through 12th-grade students will be in a “hold-harmless” state for the purpose of data gathering.
Board members Robert Wofford and Kim Cochran expressed concern as to whether student achievement and feedback would be major factors in determining teacher pay once the system goes into effect.
Petruzielo said many of those issues will be worked out during pilot implementation.
“We would rather be in this pilot model where we can influence what this is going to look like … but the devil’s going to be in the details on this stuff,” Petruzielo said.
Petruzielo said district officials are looking to include as much data and research into evaluations rather than “judgment” through administrator and student feedback.
During the regular meeting, Susan Hayes, PTA District 13 director, read a statement in support of the BOE’s resolution opposing the constitutional amendment in relation to charter schools on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The amendment, created by House Resolution 1162, allows for the creation of an appointed state board and gives it the powers to create and fund charter schools without the consent of local school boards.
The board passed a resolution against the amendment at its April 19 meeting.
Also, the board recognized Gabby Roth, the board’s student advisor for the 2012-13 school year, and six student delegates.
Gabby, 17, is senior class president at River Ridge High School and is the daughter of Rhonda Roth-John and Mathew John, and Joshua and Jenise Roth.
The six student delegates include Kayleigh Osborne, daughter of Collette Osborne and William Hansen, a 17-year-old ACE Academy student; Samantha Holloway, daughter of Sam and Suzanne Holloway, a 17-year-old Cherokee High School student; Abigail Sherrod, daughter of Paul and Gail Sherrod, a 17-year-old Creekview High School student; Megan Wallner, daughter of Jack and Catherine Wallner, a 17-year-old Etowah High School student; Logan Honea, son of Richard and Lisa Honea, a 17-year-old Sequoyah High School student; and Bailey Garner, daughter of Robert and Jennifer Garner, a 17-year-old Woodstock High School student.
The board also unanimously approved the June financial report and sales tax update and an issuance of $17 million in tax anticipation notes.