APS – Budget Committee Forwards Unfinished Budget to Board – Board Passes Millage Rates – Board Defers Passing FY14 Budget to June 27

The Budget Committee continued to struggle with the “class size” issue and the often unclear answers to questions it has put to the Administration. However, time has run out and the Committee had to “forward” a recommendation on the FY14 Budget to the Board to meet statutory deadlines. The information “forwarded” to the Board includes a series of open questions or statements of position by the Budget Committee, but no numbers as the detailed Budget still is being prepared. The Board “received” the recommendation, which included a resolution by Reuben McDaniel, Chairman of the Board to find an additional $2 million that would be used to hire up to an additional 26 teachers. In addition, the Board passed two resolutions that keep the property tax millage rates at the same level as this past year.

There was extensive discussion on a series of issues, as follows:

  1. Class size – Board Members Meister and Harsch-Kinnane focused on the cost of reducing class sizes. Based on information provided by CFO Burbridge, the cost of reducing class sizes down to a maximum of three over the DOE maximum for the fourth through twelfth grades is approximately $3.5 million. To reduce the class size for the same grade levels down to two over the DOE maximum would require an additional $4.9 million. My sense is that the $4.9 million was the preferred target, but Meister and Harsch-Kinnane are not official members of the Budget Committee and therefore they could not offer resolutions on the matter. As noted above, McDaniel did offer a more modest resolution for $2 million, which passed. The $2 million would be achieved with the use of no more than $1.5 million of General Fund reserves and additional furlough days for staff with a salary range at the Principal level or above.
  2. Under questioning, the Administration stated very clearly to the Budget Commission that the Budget did not contain any layoff of teachers in the pre-K through twelfth grades.
  3. Again, under very pointed and direct questioning, both Associate Superintendent Steve Alford Smith and Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Karen Walden stated unequivocally that no central or school administrative staff had received any raises during the past year or were there any raises for these staff members in the upcoming Budget. However, they did say that certain individuals did receive salary increases as a result of being promoted to new positions. Several Board members remained skeptical and requested additional information related to the numerous Departmental reorganizations, changes in positions titles and apparent compensation increases shown in the Preliminary Budget. I think this one is going to get very interesting given the strong and unequivocal denial that any salary increases had been given out.
  4. As a side note, the Administration has posted an updated schedule of all full time positions accounted for in the General Fund. The new schedule has an increase of 40 positions, bringing the total positions to 5,590. I will be reviewing this in detail and will also use this information to more specifically show where departmental reorganizations have resulted in salary increases.
  5. Harsch-Kinnane requested more information on the apparent increases in the budgets for Fine Arts, Foreign Language and Athletics. CFO Burbridge stated that there was no increase in total dollars spent in these areas, but that the specialty teachers had simply been reclassified out of the Classroom Instruction Department where they have been shown in the past.
  6. Karen Walden was specifically asked about the size and cost of the School Administration that is housed at the central office. Ms. Walden staunchly defended the level of spending and indicated that there was little if any room for any cuts to these departments. My sense is that certain Board members remained skeptical on this issue – one member stated – “it feels very heavy to me”.

There were a number of additional questions and statements of position established by the Budget Committee, but none of the additional items had a significant financial impact on the proposed Budget. For additional detail, please see the Talk Up APS Blog that provides a detailed presentation of the discussions.

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