On June 10th the Board of Education conducted its monthly meeting. The following are the significant items that were considered during the meeting. Please see Talk Up APS for a complete transcript of the meeting.
- The revenue forecast for FY13 remains the same at $556 million and consistent with the Approved and Amended Budget. The expenditures, which increased by $6 million in the Amended Budget to $580 million, should be met as well. The bottom line is that the General Fund reserves will decrease by $24 million as opposed to the $18 million that was originally approved. As a side note, this means that in the last three out of four years, there was deficit spending (in FY12 a deficit was initially approved, but “one-time” revenues saved the day). The preliminary approval of the FY14 Budget will make it four out of five years with deficit spending. This train has reached its last stop – there are going to be some tough decisions next year!
- An update was provided on the implementation of recommendations from the audit (completed last year) of the Special Education Program. In essence, all recommendations will be fully implemented by the beginning of the new school year. Per the FY14 Budget, there are an additional 35 net positions – primarily teachers and therapists – in this department. The Board requested that there be another mechanism to review and determine that the recommendations are in fact implemented. Superintendent Davis indicated that “We have to go back and look at how we can provide some additional assurance” and report back to the Board.
- The Board passed a new policy to align the APS vision and mission with the strategic plan adopted last year. The key items are:
- Mission – to educate all students through academic excellence, preparing them for success in life, service and leadership.
- Vision – to be a student-centered, high-performing urban school district where all students become successful life-long learners and leaders.
- Core Beliefs and Commitments – a) We believe that all children can learn; b) We believe that teachers matter; c) We believe that community is critical; d) We believe all students should be fully prepared and inspired to graduate from high school ready for college and/or careers; and e) We believe that students should be lifelong learners.
- Goals & Objectives – The superintendent shall present annually to the board goals and objectives designed to achieve the board’s vision and mission. The board’s work shall be in support of its goals and priorities which shall be established annually.
- There is a lot here – as I go forward, it is likely that I will be referring to this on a regular basis.
- The Board adopted more stringent policy on transfers of funds during the year from one Division to another Division. The key point is as follows:
- “The superintendent shall have the authority to transfer appropriations within the budget of any organizational division with a chief officer reporting directly to the superintendent up to $1 million or 2 percent (%) of the total division budget, whichever is less. The board shall approve the transfer of appropriations within division budgets that exceed these thresholds on a cumulative basis.”
- This change is very significant. One of the major weaknesses of the budget process was that the Board would approve of the annual budget and then the Superintendent could move funds around Divisions at his discretion. This policy change reigns in that capability.
- The Board denied the petitions for three new charter schools – NEXUS Academy of Atlanta, Georgia Family Academy Charter School, and Greater Change Performing Arts Academy. The petitions were denied because they lacked “viable educational plans, leadership capacity, facilities plan, sound financial planning and community support”. In addition, two other charter school petitions – Praada Academy School and Rhodes Institute of Science, Technology, and Mathematics – were returned as they were incomplete.
- Two charter school petitions “are still under review and will come before the Board at a later date”.
- The Board reviewed the “Personnel Gains, Losses, Promotions, Appointments, Creations, Reclassifications and Abolishment’s”. With good reason, the Board reviewed this very closely as it contained changes from the original version they had received. The Report contained one brand new position that will be funded by Special Revenues. In addition, one position in the Communications Department was created and anther one abolished. The FY14 Budget includes the Salary for the position that was abolished – we will see if this is removed prior to final adoption of the budget.
- The FY14 Special Revenue Budget – $131 million – was approved and a list of total expenditures by Program was released. However, the detail showing what the money is being spent on or the staffing has not been released. I am waiting for this as so many of the expenditure changes in the FY14 General Fund Budget were simply transfers to the Special Revenues Fund. Once the detail is published, we can then begin to corroborate the statements made by the administration regarding spending in several areas.
- The FY14 Capital Projects Budget ($6.3 million) and Debt Service Budget ($8.7 million) were tentatively approved and final approval will occur on June 27th.
- Mr. Amos discussed “the problems with small schools at Washington High School… This structure is not working; everything has dropped because of this structure. Why are continuously wanting to hold on to it?” The issue will be discussed further at the next meeting and Superintendent Davis will provide transition plans over several different time frames.
In summary – from a financial and budgeting perspective – the decision to place greater control on the Superintendent’s ability to transfer funds between Divisions is very significant.