Board Briefs: School Board Hears First Report on 2018-19 Budget

Board Briefs: School Board Hears First Report on 2018-19 Budget

The School Board on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, heard its first report on anticipated revenue for the 2018-19 budget, including expectations that the State will continue withholding $4 Million as an “austerity budget cut” as recommended by Gov. Deal and further increase costs to school districts for providing employees with mandated health and retirement benefits.

These three factors will create a $7.8 Million negative impact on the School District’s operating budget, according to Chief Financial Officer Ken Owen.  If the School Board approves a longevity step increase in employee salaries, that will cost an additional $6.6 Million… totaling $14.4 Million, which will use up nearly all revenue gains as a result of enrollment growth and anticipated improvements in local property values.

Facing a potential net new revenue of $1.5 Million or less, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said the District likely will have to postpone non-essential new hiring and any new initiatives and will be unable to make significant reductions in class size.

“We continue to feel a painful pinch from ‘austerity budget cuts,’ despite the State government’s financial recovery and increases in its ‘rainy day’ reserve fund,” Dr. Hightower said.  “While we’d rather not also be burdened with the State’s cost-shifting for the State Health Benefit Plan and Teachers Retirement System, we had hoped the State – at a minimum – would fully restore the education funding we earn under the State’s own formula.  While the Governor’s budget does not call for the end of this ‘austerity,’ we have again asked our Legislative Delegation and our community to lobby on our behalf as it is again our School Board’s No. 1 Legislative Priority.”

The Superintendent then officially began the District’s budget development process by asking the Board members to provide him by next month with their proposed budget priorities.  These priorities will be reviewed by the Superintendent and his budget committee, as they begin drafting the budget that will be presented to the Board in May.

The Superintendent and Board on Thursday also discussed the number of days missed by students so far this month due to inclement weather, which at the time of the meeting was three days, but rose to four with today’s closing.  As a Strategic Waiver School System, the School District has a waiver from State mandates for required school days, but the decision as to whether to make up missed days due to inclement weather is left to the Superintendent and School Board.  All staff are required to make up missed days of work.

Dr. Hightower said he would meet with his senior staff the next morning to review options and promptly share his recommendation with Board members to hear any concerns from them before announcing the plan to parents and employees as soon as Monday.

The Board, in approving the monthly personnel recommendations on Thursday night, accepted the retirement of CCSD Preschool Centers Principal Donna Adams.  A longtime educator, Ms. Adams joined CCSD in 1982 as a teacher and has served in her current role since 2011.

“She’s a wonderful educator, and we deeply appreciate the exceptional service and great care she has given to our community’s children and families,” Dr. Hightower said of Ms. Adams, who received a standing ovation.

The recommendations also included the transfer of Principal Dr. Abigail “Abby” May from Canton Elementary School STEM Academy to R.M. Moore Elementary School for next school year.

Canton Elementary will be temporarily closed to allow Cherokee High School the use of its campus beginning next school year; the elementary school’s students will be split between R.M. Moore and Knox Elementary Schools.  Jan Adamson, Principal of R.M. Moore ES, had previously announced her retirement at the end of this school year.

“We wanted to make this appointment as soon as we could,” Dr. Hightower said of Dr. May.  “The School Council at R.M. Moore has met her with open arms, and we’re ready for her to start doing the critical planning for this transition.”

The Board held its annual Vice Chair election on Thursday night, and Board member Mike Chapman was re-elected to another one-year term in this role.

The School Board also:

• Approved the renewal of a Partnership Agreement with the Cherokee County Arts Council;

• Adopted the Georgia Education Coalition (GEC) 2018 Legislative Priorities;

• Approved monthly financial reports; and,

• Approved out-of-state and overnight student field trips.

• School Board Member Clark Menard was not present for the meeting.

Next meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday, February 15, 2018