After a passionate and heated group of residents voiced concern over the Atlanta Public Schools budget, it was made final Monday night. The Atlanta Board of Education unanimously approved (9-0) the school system’s fiscal 2013 budget of $574.70 million.
The new budget is down from last year’s budget of $605 million and includes an average of 10 percent in budget cuts from most departments. District spokesman Keith Bromery said the curriculum division was the only department which received a smaller cut of 7 percent. It includes four furlough days and up to 375 personnel cuts in the system.
However, board chair Reuben McDaniel said these cuts only include about 50 active teachers.
“175 of them are CRCT teachers who are on paid leave,” he said of those implicated in the standardized test cheating scandal. “110 positions are primarily non-teacher positions that are not filled now.”
According to Bromery, the board’s effort was aimed at decreasing costs to meet revenue expectations without affecting the teaching and learning environment.
“In fact, the district is providing more support to the schools as committed to under the district-wide redistricting plan, including assigning assistant principals, social workers, counselors and nurses to schools,” Bromery said.
In the big picture, McDaniel said the community is most concerned about specific “wraparound service providers,” such as onsite family support, which will be cut but not eliminated.
“As far as [the] general budget goes, we are efficient without cutting core requirements,” he said. “We still have athletics, the arts and foreign languages.”
Additionally, McDaniel said the school system will probably save $15 million to $20 million of operating deficiencies it found, which will not have a negative effect.
“But the other $27 million will certainly affect wraparound services we’ve provided to students,” McDaniel said. “We need to make sure we can still provide the students with them.”
Despite an early provision to lay off the majority of custodians and replace them with contactors, the board decided not to include it in the new budget.
“We appreciate how important the custodial staff is to the running of the school,” McDaniel said. “We realize how important it is to have familiar faces and adult figures students feel a connection to, whether it’s a principal, custodian or teacher in between, especially in kindergarten.”
But an extra furlough day was added to compensate for that particular decision.
In total, the budgets include four “potential furlough days,” according to McDaniel.
“Our hope is revenues will be better. Our expectations are to have two furlough days,” he said.
In the future, McDaniel said he hopes for stability and believes the new budget will provide just that.
"Obviously the past couple of years have felt and been unstable,” he said. “I think financially the budget decision will provide stability. I really think we’ll have a system in a good stable state, and then as we pursue a new superintendent in 2013, that superintendent will have a stable system to come into.”
The budget had to be approved by June 30, when the current fiscal year ends.