Schools notified of an additional cut — for this budget year

Tue, 02/24/2009 - 4:27pm
By: Ben Nelms

It was supposed to be a report telling Fayette County School Board that the fiscal year ending June 30 would end in the black.

But Comptroller Laura Brock’s presentation at the Monday night meeting was just the reverse. She received an email from Georgia Department of Education an hour before the meeting, saying the school system was taking another austerity cut of $1.3 million in state funding.

The result is that the school system will likely finish FY 2008-2009 in the red after a total this year of $5.164 million in state-imposed cuts.

“I received an email saying our unofficial allotment sheets were out. Based on it we are looking at an additional $1.3 million cut for this fiscal year in addition to the 2 percent cut we had already projected and made adjustments for,” Brock said during a break in the meeting.

“So at this point in time ... I was prepared to come to this meeting to say that we are right at the break-even point. We made our (previous) adjustments through our (staff) furloughs. Things were looking good. We were going to be about $52,000 to the good (after the other cuts). But looking at the new allotment sheets, it appears there’s another $1.3 million austerity cut.”

Brock said the cuts originated with Gov. Sonny Perdue, with a portion of those cuts being passed along to the Georgia Dept. of Education.

“Gov. Perdue is cutting across the state and he’s pushed a lot of his cuts to DOE. And then DOE has to take that cut and divide it,” Brock said.

Brock said total austerity cuts for this school year total $5.164 million. The cut announced late Monday will mean that the school system will likely end the fiscal year in the negative, she said. The announcement will probably result in many school systems in the state being in the same shape, Brock said.

“This is the third cut from the state since we made a commitment to staff and parents,” said Superintendent John DeCotis.

Responding to questions from the board, Brock said the school system has the option of carrying some of the $1.3 million deficit into the next school year, though doing so would bring additional monitoring requirements from the state.

Speaking on the announcement of the newest austerity cut, board member Janet Smola cited the cuts spanning the past several years as a reason why the school system is lacking in reserves. Prior to the cut announced Monday, Fayette had received more than $21 million in austerity cuts over the past 5-6 years.

“This is what happens at the end of the budget year, when the governor says we’re going to cut you. That’s what happens to the reserve fund. The legislature keeps cutting,” Smola said.

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Submitted by WELLRANDRY on Thu, 02/26/2009 - 10:19am.

When will we discontinue to support students of teachers who live in other counties!!! The last time I checked my tax bill, it was not cheap. Some of these teachers have 2-3 children attending our schools. The teachers are paid and get a salary from our tax $$$; the tax $$$ that is paid to their counties should be refunded to Fayette for educating their children.

I do agree with others at the meeting....John get rid of the dead weight!!! Do we need a Director for every position the school system offers. I made several calls to various individuals at the Board concerning different issues and no one seems to know who handles what area. You all are confused!!!!! Eliminate the waste at the County office.

Submitted by nottelling on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 7:33pm.

That would just about cover the newest figure for the projected 2008 shortfall ...

Land For Sale

The Fayette County Board of Education is offering for Sale 99.06 acres of pristine pasture and wooded areas with a lake located on Georgia Highway 92 south of Fayetteville.

The asking price is Two Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($2,500,000.00).

The property has road frontage on 92 South and Inman Road and is located directly adjacent to the new Inman Elementary School due to open in August 2008.

Currently the property is zoned AR (Agriculture Reserve with 5 acre lots). The Fayette County Land Use map shows the property in the 2-3 acre allowed zoning area.

Submitted by hi grover on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 11:22pm.

Don't forget the Kiwanis Fairgrounds that the school board bought (60acres). How about the wetlands behind Whitewater? We still own that too. Oh yeah, let's not forget the 12 acres where the school board thought about building the aquatics center with SPLOST $ for the YMCA to run.

Let's see have I missed anything...that's right, the land for Janet's pet project, the magnet high school off of Tyrone Rd.

I hear real estate values plummeting even further here in Fayette County...Oh the economic engine of the county...the school system crashing and burning.

What a shame...we should have watched and demanded better for our kids, the employees and all of the citizens...

yellowjax1212's picture
Submitted by yellowjax1212 on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 9:59am.

There are still two colleges seeking to expand/relocate to the Fayette County area. Clayton State and Atlanta Christian will need temporary classroom space while their campuses are being built. Can we use some of our vacant space (Rivers Elementary, etc) to meet their needs? Other than the short toilets and low urinals it seems like a good chance to generate even minimal rent money. Rivers is already built and it looks like it will not be needed for sometime, if ever (seems incredibly wasteful but that's another topic for another posting). We need to think creatively on how to best utilize what we have until we have weathered this storm. IT CAN NOT always be dumped on the backs of the tax payers (specifically the homeowners) of the county!

Submitted by mamadutt on Thu, 02/26/2009 - 10:36am.

I am getting so darn frustrated, but cannot do anything about it. Rivers Elementary is desperately needed! I bet most of you commenting about it do not have a problem of overcrowded classes. My son and the whole 2nd grade are in trailers at Burch! The teachers can't teach properly under these conditions. We are the only school suffering. I have been paying my taxes as much as the south Fayette area, yet my son is forced to try to learn under terrible circumstances! These trailers have one small window! It is cold in winter and hot rest of time. when a/c turned on, cannot hear instructions from teacher! someone please come take a look at what we endure at Burch. We have 200 students over capacity, but seems those numbers are not told to anyone! How about we transfer all of Burch to the new school? the new school would hold all of Burch. maybe no trailers needed. Logical analysis are not being made. This is so terrible and we are definitely not looking at all the options. Why not use Burch as the satellite school?? No one seems to have common sense though to figure this out. So political. Apparently we don't have any say on the north part of county. As long as everyone else is happy must be ok. We will never grow in this area if people look at our school situation. who wants their child to attend an overcrowded school? I only stay because the teachers are the best at Burch!!!!

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Thu, 02/26/2009 - 11:02am.

Mamadutt, there is a reason for all those trailers at Burch.

Back in 2006, the Board of Education hired an expert in redistricting. He came at a very high price, and delivered a fair and equitable plan, one that required a lot of students moving but would mean there would most likely be no further need to redistrict for a decade or longer.

Think of the numbers on a clock, 1 through 12. Many students would have to move counter-clockwise in the county. There was one HUGE problem, though. The expert's plan called for residents of the huge Lakeside and Lakemont subdivisions to move from "2 o'clock" to "12 o'clock", and as such, they'd be forced to start attending Fayette County High School instead of Whitewater High School.

The residents of Lakeside and Lakemont organized a huge protest campaign, as was their right to do. They wanted things to stay exactly the same.

Unfortunately, the School Board caved in to pressure from these two subdivisions. They basically threw out all the recommendations that the highly paid expert had made.

Since Lakemont and Lakeside had "won" by having the board "freeze" their position at "2 o'clock", this meant there would be a tremendous backlog somewhere between "3 o'clock" and "7 o'clock" in the overpopulated areas.

The School Board decided that Burch elementary would be the "loser" so that Lakeside and Lakemont could "win"... we now have a lopsided county with empty schools and overcrowded Burch with trailers.

And this is solely because your School Board opted to listen to the loudest arguments, not the best arguments.

yellowjax1212's picture
Submitted by yellowjax1212 on Wed, 02/25/2009 - 9:50am.

Let me take a moment to play devil's advocate. I am a supporter of "rainy day" reserves and, man, is it raining now. I will not make any judgement on the efficiency or lack of by the BOE. I do not know the details except that my tax bill seems to always go up. My wife and I made the choice years ago before moving to PTC to put our children through private school. We are not wealthy and have made many sacrifices and have struggled to give our kids, what we feel is the best education possible (again - not a judgement on the school system). Anyway, back to my point - Zero Based Budgets. May of the bloggers on hear were parading their support for this type of municipal accounting back during the election cycle. It all sounds good on the surface but, as I understand it, Zero Based Budgeting does not allow for "reserve or slush" funds for down economic cycles. Every penny is assigned and spent, leaving a balance of zero at the end of the year. Seems to me that some of the Zero Based proponents are the ones now asking where the reserves went. Now I know that we don't have Zero Based budgets and we should have some reserves and I wonder where they have gone but it just seems that some people want it both ways.
Me, I would prefer to get some of my tax dollars back through a voucher system but I am realistic and know that will not happen.

Steve Brown's picture
Submitted by Steve Brown on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 9:57pm.

Regarding Board Member Smola's unfortunate comment: "Speaking on the announcement of the newest austerity cut, board member Janet Smola cited the cuts spanning the past several years as a reason why the school system is lacking in reserves."

After a careful review of the BOEs actions, her statement above has her in in some state other than reality. Read the article on this site entitled "Fayette school closings ahead?" to understand just how bad things were.

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 10:05pm.

Listening to Terri Smith whine at last night's FCBOE chaotic board meeting, it's becoming clear why decisions are never made.

"Nobody could have known that 40 years of growth was going to vanish overnight!"

Uh, Terri? Peachtree City was built out in's now 2009. Welcome to the party.

"We were operating in good faith! GOOD FAITH!"

I'm sure the developers were very pleased with your "good faith".

Submitted by totellthetruth on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 7:34pm.

Shouldn't there be a reserve account for the school system? There should be one that they could tap in an emergency. I think this bit of bad news constitutes tapping into it.

Submitted by Andre65 on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 8:11pm.

Didn't they spend it all? Isn't that why the county is in such a terrible state?

Submitted by kingswood48 on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 10:01pm.

and you will hear the lecture that Smola gave to all present as to why there are no reserves. The State has passed along austerity cuts for the past 5 years after the budget has been set so they HAD to use the reserve to come up with the rest of the money. Instead of planning ahead in the next years budget for the inevitable cut and plan spending cuts, they continued on the same path. The "rainy day fund" is now dry and we are in the midst of a downpour. Fayette County is the ONLY system in the state that is not only cutting staff, but also going to vote on Thursday for an across the board pay cut and benefits cut to its employees. The entire budget shortage for next year $14.5 million will be shouldered by the employees. Employees are paying for this fiscally mismanaged school system. Does this system have too many "chiefs" at the county office and not enough "indians" that actually know what they are doing?

Submitted by fc1989 on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 8:59pm.

From 2004 to 2007 the financial reports (CAFR) show a $5 to 6.5 million fund balance at the end of each year. In 2008 the revenues were $3.8 million less than budgeted and the fund balance was reduced to $1.7 million at the start of this year. The district did not make adjustments as the state made austerity cuts over the last several years.

Submitted by hi grover on Tue, 02/24/2009 - 6:13pm.

The school system has had austerity cuts...yes that is true...but you have overspent the budget and depleted the reserves the school system had several years ago. The govenor has been cutting away for years and you and Terri and Lee kept on spending under the not so watchful eye of you illustrious powerhouse Dr. DeCotis...what was that Board of Dysfunction and Superidiot of the year?

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