Cherokee BOE Tables Budget Vote
But it approved a spending resolution that will enable the school system to spend money in July.
The Cherokee County Board of Education on Thursday night voted to table a vote on the school system’s tentative budget for 2012-2013 and approved a spending plan that will enable the school system to make expenditures until the budget is approved in July.
Candler Howell, assistant superintendent for financial management, said the budget was given to the board later than normal this year because of a delay in getting tax digest figures from the Cherokee County Tax Assessors Office. In fact, Howell said he still hasn’t received final tax digest numbers.
The $518.74 million budget for 2012-2013 is approximately $9 million less than the school system’s budget for 2011-2012. The school system will have to take approximately$15 million out of its reserves to balance the budget. In a letter to school board members, Superintendent Frank Petruzielo said that state funding to Cherokee County Schools is being cut by $26.5 million, and that the school system is losing $9.3 million in local property tax funding because of properties that have been foreclosed on and the devaluation of properties. During a work session in May, Petruzielo said the local tax digest also is continuing to “hemorrhage.” In the last five years, it’s dropped from $7.8 million to a projected $5.8 million for the 2012-2013 school year, which is the same level it was in 2004.
“The proposed 2012-2013 tentative budget reflects another year of the most financial challenges with which the school district has ever had to cope in preparing an annual balanced budget for consideration by the Board of Education,” Petruzielo wrote in his letter to school board members.
The budget increases staff furlough days from four to eight, increases the instructional day by 15 minutes; maximizes class size and reduces teacher allotments system-wide, affecting 93 teachers; decreases substitute teacher compensation by $10; decreases long-term substitute teacher compensation by $11; reduces high school athletic transportation supplements; and eliminates middle school athletic transportation supplements.
The budget does, however, include 3 percent longevity step increases for employees beginning January 2013.
“In effect, individuals would receive in dollar amounts half of what their normal step would be,” Petruzielo said.
Despite the decreases in funding, Howell said property owners will not see an increase in their property taxes this year. The school system’s millage rate is set to remain at 19.85 mills, the rate at which it has been set since the 2010-2011 school year.
In a related matter, board member Kim Cochran suggested the board look into increasing activity fees paid by parents and booster clubs to free up more money to be used in classrooms.
“I wanted to suggest and see how you guys felt about the idea of working it somehow like we used to with facilities so we don’t cover all the costs of what’s being done, but we (have) some kind of fee associated with that so we have some of that going back into the classroom,” Cochran said.
Vice Chairman Janet Read said that parents of students who participate in extracurricular activities already pay a significant amount of money in fees.
“The parents are already paying a significant amount for their children to play, so we would need to research what that savings would be,” Read said.
Petruzielo suggested the board collect data and assess the school system’s current fees, and cautioned the board not to make a decision without talking to parents and students. He said board members likely would be “astounded” by how much parents currently are paying for their children to participate in various activities.
“I think once you have all that data in front of you, you’d be in a much better position to know what the current status quo is and then how that might be changed over time,” he said. “I don’t know whether a flat fee makes sense or whether it ought to be a sliding scale for different sports. I don’t know if there should be a differentiation between sports fees and other activity fees. There are some sports kids are involved in now that I know the costs are extraordinary.”
Petruzielo said cheerleading can cost at least $1,200-$1,700 out of pocket.
“It starts to add up,” he said.