$26.6M austerity cut to remain for district schools during 2014
by Megan Thornton
March 23, 2013 12:25 AM | 2912 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo repeated Cherokee County School District’s three top priorities relating to state funding this year during Thursday’s work session: restore a full 180-day school calendar, reduce class sizes and decrease furlough days.

None of those issues are expected to be addressed in the coming school year unless something is done in the last few days of the Georgia General Assembly.

“We see no enhancements in the budget,” Petruzielo told the board during its Thursday night work session. “In fact … there is $26.6 million that we are owed, but we will not receive.”

Petruzielo said the only good news is the state budget cuts haven’t carved a deeper hole in the district’s pocket for next year, but instead continued the same cuts seen in the 2012-13 school year.

“But it’s also not better,” Petruzielo said. “It is also not likely, given the flat revenue from the state, that we’re going to be able to address those three objectives the school board had in its legislative program.”

Mike McGowan, supervisor of strategic planning, confirmed Petruzielo’s statements when he gave the board an update on legislative bills following Crossover Day. The list of about 50 bills has been followed closely by district staff for the potential impact they may have on CCSD, McGowan said.

The fiscal year 2014 Appropriations Bills, House Bill 109 and 110 are in the House Appropriations Committee. McGowan said according to the bill, the $26.6 million austerity cut in last year’s budget will remain.

“We have seen no movement from the governor or the House to restore a portion of that,” McGowan said.

According to Candler Howell, assistant superintendent of financial management, the district has cut $56 million over the last five years — $26 million as a direct result of state austerity budget cuts and $30 million from a reduction in local ad valorem tax revenue.

“We’ve knocked down our reserves since 2008 to about $28 million,” Howell said. “With our budget, we should be at $45 million ... We’re getting down to a dangerous level where we’re going to (have to) start borrowing earlier on our (Tax Anticipation Notes). We can handle it, but we’ll just have to borrow a lot more and earlier in the year.”

Howell said in discussions with Chief Appraiser John Adams, Cherokee County will likely experience a “flat” year — while portions of the county have grown over the last year, other areas have stalled.

“We hopefully will hold the same value as last year,” Howell said, noting the school system has lost $30 million from decreases in the local digest. “Flat sounds really good at this point, but recognize that flat does not get us to restore those things we all say are so important,” Petruzielo said.

Kenneth Owen, supervisor of internal audits, grants accounting and budgets, said deep federal budget cuts, known as sequestration, will not impact CCSD this year, but in coming years will force cuts in nine CCSD programs utilizing federal funding, including programs for students with disabilities, limited English proficient programs and Title I programs.

“We were told to expect anywhere between 5.2 and 8.2 percent based on allocations this year, so we’re expecting and planning for an 8.2 percent cut,” Owen said.

Owen said his office has had since May 2012 had to consider the potential cuts.

“We expect hopefully that we won’t have to cut personnel,” Owen said. “Some of the programs we may expect to cut might be something like summer school for Title I schools.”

Owen said the district received $15.1 million this year, so the full cut would be approximately $1.2 million.
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