Closure of P.B. Ritch Elementary Put on Five-Year Plan
A consultant to Georgia school systems in the area of budget preparation says lack of state funding will lead to tough choices for upcoming fiscal year.
We previewed today's meeting of the Paulding County Board of Education at this link. The fate of P.B. Ritch Elementary and the length of the school year are top topics on tap. Follow us on Twitter @DallasPatch for up-to-the-minute updates from tonight's meeting. We'll update this article with those tweets shortly thereafter. Your meeting begins at 6:15 from East Paulding High School. Feel free to add comments here or on Twitter.
Tonight's takeaway: P.B. Ritch's fate is sealed; sometime in the next five years the school will close, although it will be open for at least the 2011-12 school year. Also, according to consultant Doug Eza, Paulding County's school system is suffering from the state's sinking commitment to funding equity, forcing a decision among furloughs, layoffs and a big millage increase.
9:36 p.m. The board is out of closed session. Land was not discussed after all. A slate of personnel moves gets unanimous approval.
9:20 p.m. We're still here. The past 30 minutes or so has seen the board approve Georgia School Board Association legislative priorities, section by section, until a suggestion to approve it all in one fell swoop. Only one minor revision came as a result of the discussion. Now there's a closed session regarding legal, land and personnel matters.
8:43 p.m. That's going to be mostly it except for the usual housekeeping thing—field trip approval, fundraiser report, etc. An executive session also is on the agenda.
8:31 p.m. Kim Curl makes the motion, and Theresa Lyons seconds it. The motion carries 6-1, with Nick Chester the sole dissenter. The school will be phased out within five years.
8:29 p.m. The proposal: Phase P.B. Ritch out within the five-year facility plan.
8:28 p.m. And we're back after a much-needed break. Marty Turner, executive director of maintenance and facilities, is now announcing the P.B. Ritch item.
8:15 p.m. Five-minute recess. Whoooo.
8:08 p.m. Eza: The alternatives are to raise millage rates or further cut personnel and programs.
8:07 p.m. Eza: Paulding will join other systems in operating at a lower level than they did 10 years ago.
8:03 p.m. Eza: In essence, the state has been transferring more and more financial responsibility for local schools to localities.
8 p.m. Eza: Because of austerity cuts, "you don't have a choice not to do furloughs."
7:58 p.m. Eza: "They don't like to fund education in Atlanta right now."
7:55 p.m. Eza: Next year, the state is set to take about $10 million from Paulding in equalization grants.
7:54 p.m. Eza: Paulding is among those poorest counties. For fiscal 2011, that cut was about $9 million, which led to furlough days.
7:53 p.m. Eza: Under Gov. Sonny Perdue, equalization grants were cut by one-third. The poorest counties get those grants. Wealthy systems don't get grants, so they saw no cuts.
7:50 p.m. Eza: Equalization grants are intended to allow counties with lower property tax bases to fund education more comparably to wealthier counties, but they have nothing to do with the wealth of the citizens in the county. Rather, the grants are based on the value of all property and the number of students.
7:48 p.m. Eza: It costs 15 mills here in Paulding just to pay for the basics.
7:44 p.m. Eza: It's $21.8 million to pay the difference for all the "stuff" the district had in 2002. That equals 7 mills just to keep up with austerity cuts.
7:31 p.m. Eza: 375 elementary students equals one special areas teacher funded by the state. Local funding has to fund that additional PE teacher, art teacher, etc.
7:27 p.m. Won't drop any numbers here, but Eza's main idea: State funding doesn't fully fund schools' central office personnel.
7:26 p.m. From Vicky Byrne (@TeamLifehouse): "Getting more and more concerned about my salary for this next school year, if they cut my pay any deeper, I will have to get a 3rd job."
7:25 p.m. Eza: "They're giving us typerwriter money to fund computer equipment."
7:24 p.m. Eza: QBE only funds one superintendent and one central office secretary. Everything else is local. And the state is giving out 1985 salaries for those positions under QBE.
7:21 p.m. Eza: When we get rid of teachers, the state money goes down. The training and experience multiplier is reduced, digging the district deeper in the hole.
7:19 p.m. Eza: Letting go of experienced teachers doesn't save you more money. The QBE formula's training and experience modifier makes up the pay difference.
7:12 p.m. Eza: Social Securty payments for staff are locally funded and equate to about 2 mills in property taxes.
7:11 p.m. To Vicky Byrne (@TeamLifehouse): But he's explaining the reasoning behind the cuts that may come from the district in the coming days or weeks.
7:10 p.m. To Vicky Byrne (@TeamLifehouse): This is a presentation from an outside expert. Not leading to budget action.
7:09 p.m. From Vicky Byrne (@TeamLifehouse): "ooooh no !! Now the "Fun" part of the meeting ! Not too many positions they can cut if they are increasing class sizes!"
7:08 p.m. Eza: QBE prescribes funding ratios—one teacher for every X students in Y grade or program, for example.
7:08 p.m. Eza: So that leads to the need to cut people and salaries.
7:07 p.m. Eza: Salaries account for about 92 percent of that, operations about 8 percent. That's not much room to cut.
7:05 p.m. Eza: $148 million—that's what it takes to provide a quality basic education in Paulding, according to law. Most of it is eaten by payroll.
7:04 p.m. Eza: But QBE requires communities to put in their "fair share" before the extra funds would become available.
7:03 p.m. Eza: QBE funding has a minimum, but there was also optional (additional) funding available.
7:02 p.m. Eza: The QBE Act of 1985 was designed to put in place a funding mechanism by which every child would have access to quality, but basic, education.
6:59 p.m. Eza: State funding—$127 million for Paulding schools as of today.
6:58 p.m. Eza: Funding comes from three sources: state, local and federal. The federal government has stepped up, but some officials don't like federal money because of the strings.
6:58 p.m. Eza: We're moving backward.
6:57 p.m. Eza: Citing a Georgia Policy and Budget Institute study, H.B. 78 will result in state spending per pupil reaching its lowest level in a decade. (H.B. 78 is the appropriations bill the fiscal year starting July 1. Here's a link to the cited report, which we'll also upload to this article.)
6:56 p.m. Eza: Ironically, the housing boom helped keep funding for schools intact starting around 2002. But now the "party is over."
6:55 p.m. Eza: As of last week, the state has taken $16.6 million from the children in Paulding County through austerity cuts.
6:54 p.m. Eza: Even when there was plenty of money for "building fishing docks" in the state, Georgia leaders still took school funding away.
6:54 p.m. Eza: Circa 2002, a shallow recession led to an increasing pullback of funding.
6:53 p.m. Eza: In first 17 years after passage of Quality Basic Education in Georgia, state leaders generally funded schools as required by law.
6:52 p.m. Eza compares high school principals to the heads of $10 million corporations.
6:50 p.m. Eza: Board members still think we can get out of this. They're not acknowledging the reality of what's happening.
6:49 p.m. Eza: There are 180 school systems in the state; 90 of them are at the edge of the cliff, and class sizes are increasing. Paulding is "a foot from the cliff."
6:48 p.m. Eza: A 2 percent cut in some systems hurts more than a 2 percent cut in other systems.
6:46 p.m. Eza: Teachers and staff had learned how to operate with plenty of money. We're still operating as if there were more money.
6:44 p.m. Eza: It's our job to make sure that every dollar we get from the public is well spent. It's not always been that way.
6:43 p.m. Eza shows the audience an allotment sheet. It represents the state funding for Paulding Counth Schools. He'll explain the sheet further in a bit.
6:40 p.m. Eza: I don't consider myself a consultant. I consider myself a friend of public education.
6:39 p.m. Doug Eza, a consultant to Georgia school systems in the area of budget preparation, is about to give his presentation on school funding.
6:29 p.m. From Vicky Byrne (@TeamLifehouse): "PLEASE keep us updated on the meeting. I am very concerned and interested about the outcome of it."
6:28 p.m. We're here at East Paulding High for tonight's board meeting. We're past the Pledge of Allegiance and now doing recognitions.