School board eyes its budget
by By DELANEY WALKER Banner Staff Writer
Sep 07, 2012 | 914 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
School Board
Peggy Pesterfield
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The Cleveland Board of Education received reports on the city school budget and expenditures at Thursday night’s formal session to determine room for growth.

According to Brenda Carson, the school system’s financial officer, wiggle room in the budget is nearly nonexistent. Carson used charts to explain the various budget components.

“The largest section of the 2012-13 general fund budget allocates 80.52 percent for salaries and benefits of employees,” Carson said.

The pie chart showed the remaining components are the $200 per teacher (a required BEP), utilities and janitorial, liability insurance and trustee commission, and a section for textbooks, supplies, maintenance and transportation.

“The section marked 11.45 percent of our budget is the only area where we really have any flexibility at all,” Carson said. “This section includes paying for things like textbooks, supplies, and maintenance and transportation expenses. If you are running a school system, then you cannot really skip on those things.”

“The 11.45 percent is $4.4 million and that sounds like a lot of money, but when you look at where it needs to go it is not really,” Carson said. “... Within the 11.45 percent are things like transportation. Transportation itself is around $1 million and that is not including operating expenses.”

Board member Dawn Robinson said 80.52 percent spent on salaries and benefits is integral to the school system.

“We are a very employee-driven business. We can’t afford to go without our teachers, food service workers, bus drivers ... It makes sense that most of our budget goes toward our employees,” Robinson said.

Board member Peggy Pesterfield said the budget is online for public review. The documents can be found at www.clevelandschools.org by looking under “Board” and then clicking on “Budget.” The numbers discussed at the school board are available under “Board” and by clicking on the most recent school board agenda.

“Hypothetically, if we were going to build a $15 million building, and we were asked to find money out of our budget, we wouldn’t be able to provide the money for it, right,” Robinson asked Carson.

Carson said the move would be impossible at this time. According to Carson, the school system is currently paying back a $1.7 million debt service with an annual debt service of about $100,000.

Jeff Elliott, supervisor of curriculum and instruction for city schools, said the student population is showing a steady increase every summer.

“As you can see, the ending number in June compared to the beginning number in September shows about an increase of one hundred or so each year,” Elliott said. “... This year we had 5,080 at the end of the school term and we have 5,201 as of this afternoon.”

According to Elliott’s report, Mayfield and Blythe-Bower Elementary schools are currently boasting about the same number around 550-plus. Cleveland Middle School has reached over 1,200 students as of this week. Cleveland High School currently has 1,352 students.

“... [Based on current reports] we are looking at a number for enrollment in the future being at 5,742,” Elliot said. “This is about a 500 to 600 increase in students in about four years. Most of this growth will be seen at the elementary school level.”

Robinson said if the school system had the funds for a new school, the students would not be in the building until 2014 or 2015.

“If we built an elementary school for 500 students, then we would not have much growing room in that building by the time we opened that building,” Robinson said. “We need to consider the size of building we need and we must press upon the community that we are already behind.”

Pesterfield said she was told an interesting fact about prison capacities.

“If we were a prison and if you exceed the number of inmates you have capacity for, then you lose your certification and then you lose your state money,” Pesterfield said. “I think it’s interesting we pay more attention to the state prisons than we do our schools.”

Paul Ramsey continued talk on financial matters by giving the board an energy management update. Ramsey said the school system has a cost avoidance of 29.75 percent. In total, the cost avoidance is $1,611,638.37 to date.

“Everyone is doing a good job,” Ramsey said of the schools. “The staff, the teachers and the principals support our program and do a super job.”

According to Ramsey’s reports, the school system used 4,018,391.00 KBTUs in June 2008. In June 2012, the number was down to 1,998,844.00 KBTUs. The school board discussed further energy saving techniques and the possibility of geothermal additions.

Additional information and charts discussed at the school board meeting can be found at www.clevelandschools.org. For more information, call the main office at 472-9571.