Tuesday, May 5, 2009

CCSD Spending: A Rejoinder

The education reporter for the Banner-Herald called me up a couple of times to discuss the Clarke County School District’s budget for an article that appeared in yesterday’s edition (probably because I am always bitching about the District’s spending and financial practices, huh?).

I am always happy to spout off about this or that, but there remains a bit of trepidation about going on the record with a reporter. I have been misquoted in the local press (more than once), but do not necessarily attribute that to ulterior motives. Sometimes, what one person says (or what one person thinks he/she said) is not what another person hears. I would have penned the article somewhat differently, but have no particular qualms about the way it turned out.

Be that as it may, I would like to emphasize a few points did not come out in the article.

I fully support keeping those 59 first-grade paraprofessionals in the budget. I have no doubt that the District spends far too much money – and has done so for many years – but dispute that the classroom is the best place to start making personnel cuts. My preferred target would be over on Mitchell Bridge Road.

As I noted back in February, the District spend more that the state average across all seven of the categories tracked by the Georgia Department of Education for FY 2008:

• Instruction $7357.46 (20.81% above the state average of $6090.18)
• Pupil Services $303.20 (5.23% above the state average of $288.13)
• Staff Services $730.77 (57.68% above the state average of $463.44)
• General Administration $461.09 (4.42% above the state average of $441.58)
• School Administration $634.01 (13.97% above the state average of $556.29)
• Transportation $714.04 (63.77% above the state average of $436.01)
• Maintenance & Operations $979.49 (41.50% above the state average of $692.20)
• Total $11,180.05 (24.67% above the state average of $8967.83)

Thus, it seems to me that the areas in which to start trimming the budget should be fairly obvious, specifically Staff Services and Transportation.

Finally, though the District appears to be doing better than in past years insofar as getting its proposed budget out in front of the public is concerned, it still has a long way to go. For example, the PDF of the tentative budget is an 18 page document that, after a cursory review of expected revenues and expenses, merely states the baseline budget from the current year, notes that some items have been subtracted (some of which were one-time expenses anyway) and that others have been added (some of which are “must do”) and produces a budget number for the upcoming year. The vast majority of the District’s spending is not considered in a meaningful manner at all. The same goes for the slide presentation presented at the budget hearings.

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Anonymous said...

Well, the article, to me, unfairly painted you as a lone wolf against women and children. The fact is, what you say is true: ACC spends education money ineffectively!

In other words, this money, spent properly, could do things like lift people from poverty and improve lives. Now it's not fashionable, yet, but I suspect, there is a day fast approaching, when those brave critics demanding real improvements and those leaders who can actually get a better return from smaller levels of spending, will be held in high esteem by one and all.

All of our public officials are acutely aware of the tax assessment freeze that went into effect today. They are trying to mitigate the effects of this by "taking the lead" and looking as though they are concerned about their level of spending. The parapro thing, to me, was pure political theater. I've an idea, though, that it'll not stave off the demand for new leaders committed to fiscal responsibility and results. For years, now, we've had leaders who spent-up all the money coming from higher assessments and housing speculation while never voting for tax increases, indeed, sometimes lowering millage rates the excess was so much. Well ... those days are over, and the leaders, now, are going to have to re-learn the taxing and spending rules, all over, again, while knowing they'll have to go on record to support tax increases even as the public outrage wends its way towards the ballot box.

james said...

But don't you realize that we evil GOP types are against women and children. :)