Pelham City Schools Poised to take big hit as
State Legislature Defunds Allotment for FY 15
By: Superintendent Floyd Fort
On the evening of February 21, 2014, I received some terrible news for Pelham City Schools. I received an email from the financial department of the Department of Education that listed the Fiscal Year 2015 allotments for every school system. The preliminary FY 15 budget indicates that the Governor and the Legislature have defunded Pelham City Schools by an additional $362,474. I was not expecting this news. Almost three weeks later, I continue to feel dismayed, betrayed and very angry. The Governor has been talking about the increased funding for education. He has talked about decreasing the austerity reduction. He has talked about increasing the funding for the “Equalization” Grant that attempts to assist school systems that have financial challenges. This is not entirely true. Yes, the projected budget for next year does indicate a reduction in the amount of austerity we are being assessed. The austerity assessment has dropped from $1,152,859 dollars to $820,846 dollars (this means that the Legislature was cutting the Pelham City allotment by $1,152,859 and now they will only cut it by $820,846). However, the cuts to the equalization grant funding for Pelham City Schools will result in a cut of $241 per child or $6025 per classroom of 25 students.
For Pelham City Schools $362,474 could provide salaries and benefits for over 6 teachers or restore the local supplement for Pelham City teachers that was removed several years ago when the legislature began increasing tax exemptions and defunding education. In Pelham City Schools, it costs $40,000 a day to fund all teachers and paraprofessionals. You can see that the cut to Equalization is the equivalent of 9 working days for all teachers and paraprofessionals. Our current Governor, Nathan Deal, has made it clear on his website that if teachers don’t get a pay increase then they need to speak with their local Board of Education. He insists that he has put enough money back into education for teachers to get pay raises. Obviously, he has not looked at the numbers for Pelham City Schools. The Board of Education Members and I have attempted to communicate our plight about the unfairness of the budget cuts. We have contacted our local legislators, budget chairs, and educational experts. We have not received any positive news from any of them. Some have not responded at all. I would hope that the citizens of the Pelham Community will see that we need to encourage our Legislators to work toward providing Pelham City Schools and others in similar circumstances with the funding necessary to ensure a great education for all children.
Currently, to ensure that we have maximized our funding, our system administrators have already revisited the educational program coding for every child. In addition, we will be implementing a reorganization plan that will save additional budget dollars. However, I don’t know if that is going to be enough. Because, in addition to the severe cuts that we are realizing from the State, we are also seeing a significant decrease in Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) –($65,857 short thus far) and Educational Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) - ($90,500 short thus far). The decrease in these revenues can only be attributed to legislated tax exemptions. Now the news of additional defunding may force us to take unwanted steps to balance the budget and maintain strong academic and extracurricular programs. Rest assured that we are going to work as hard as we can to make our budget balance by working to explore every option. But all citizens need to realize, if you add the ongoing austerity of $820,846 to the reduction in the Equalization Grant of $362,474 you get a total reduction of $1,183,320 for Pelham City Schools from the State. When you add the additional reduction of about $268,000 in local sales tax revenue for the entire year you can quickly see that our finances are not shaping up real well for next school year. We are faced with a total reduction in revenue of approximately $966 per child or $24,150 per classroom of 25 students.
In summary, Pelham City Schools has faced severe budget cuts before and has done well. We will continue to make our educational system work. I want to assure everyone that we are going to make a concerted effort to stretch the dollars we do receive to make sure that every child coming to Pelham City Schools gets the quality education they deserve and the opportunity to participate in the array of extra-curriculum programs that we provide. However, it is very important for you, the citizens of our community to know that the total decrease in funding of over 1 million dollars for Pelham City Schools is a far cry from the re-election year rhetoric that you may be hearing or reading about.
Floyd P. Fort3/20/2014
Pelham City Schools