Archived Story

TCS budget ‘not pretty’

Published 11:00pm Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Despite an increase in enrollment and a reduction in staffing, the Troy City Schools will end fiscal year 2014 with less than two months operating reserve, according to the budget passed this week.

“It’s not a pretty budget,” board of education member Roxie Kitchens said at the meeting on Monday. “And I’m not sure I even wanted to vote on this because we’re projected to go below two months’ operating reserves.

“But, when you bring in $1 million less per year than you did five years ago, it adds up.”

Kitchens, along with the board members Wally Lowery, Eva Green and Jason Thomas voted unanimously to approve the budget, which includes $26.2 million in total expenditures and some $17.9 million in total revenues. Board President Dr. Judson Edwards was absent.

While the district has sought to maintain at least three months’ operating expenses in its cash reserves, the declining revenues have forced the district to drop below that benchmark. “We’re operating at less than 3 percent now and, if nothing changes in the next budget year, we’ll end at less than 2 percent,” Kitchens said.

In the two public budget hearings held prior to Monday’s board meeting, CFO Mickey Daughtry explained the key factors impacting the FYE14 budget. Among those is a 12 percent increase in expenditures, driven by a 2 percent state-mandated raise for teachers and the conclusion of capital projects and beginning of long-term bond debt repayment.

“When you give a 2 percent raise, you have to make it across the board,” he said. “And when you raise the base pay, we also see an increase in payroll taxes, benefits and fringe expenses.”

Some $14.4 million, or 76 percent, of the district’s expenses come from personnel. “And we have been working to reduce the number of personnel,” said Superintendent Lee Hicks. The district has 250 full-time personnel and 10 retired or part-time personnel. Of those, 150 are teachers, and 66 percent have a master’s degree or higher, which increases their pay rate.

By working through attrition and retirement, the district has been able to reduce the number of locally funded teacher units from 27.17 to 17.99 for the upcoming school year. That reduces the amount of local dollars used to pay for teachers in the classrooms.

“But when you have a 2 percent pay raise, that adds up quickly,” Hicks said.

The remaining expenditures include $1.2 million in debt service and $1.1 million in other operating expenses.

According to Daughtry, the district will spend $8,308.46 per pupil, which is less than the 2011-2012 state average of $8,405 per pupil.

The district is working to refinance its public education building authority bond debt of approximately $1.4 million and, if successful, could save $400,000 in anticipated expense, Daughtry said. “That’s money that won’t be taken from the general fund,” he said.

The district’s revenues come primarily from state funding, through the Education Foundation. More than 58 percent of the district’s funding – or some $10.3 million – is state funding, which is earmarked primarily for personnel and classroom expenses. The district receives $2.047 million in federal revenues and $5.521 in local revenues, primarily from taxes.

A nearly 3 percent reduction in federal funding, due to sequestration and the loss of federal stimulus funding, combined with declining local sales tax revenues result in the nearly $1 million loss in revenues during the past five years.

“Believe me, we’re asking the tough questions,” Kitchens said. “And it weighs heavy on all of us as board members to know we’re approving this and are responsible for this.

“Mr. Hicks and Mr. Daughtry have put a tremendous amount of work into the budget and we have to trust them … and we have to hope and pray for a better year ahead.”

  • heymonnoproblem

    Really?!?!?!? I guess we should be proud of 58% graduation rate when

    According to Daughtry, the district will spend $2,308.46 per pupil, which is less than the 2011-2012 state average of $8,405 per pupil.

    Spending $6000 less per student than the state average should be totally unacceptable to all families who send their children to TCD.

    We should be building “champions” in the classroom!! Instead, we are pleased with mediocrity???

    Maybe someone divided the money by the wrong number of students.

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    • Stacy Graning

      Actually, the number was reported incorrectly in the original article. The district actually will spend $8,308.46 per pupil, based on their reported figures. The error was ours and we regret the error.

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  • Observer

    The problem is more than just taking $1-million less per year – - when you spend $9-million more in one year than you take in -

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  • Observer

    Teachers get a two percent raise, the first across-the-board raise they have seen in seven years, but one support person gets a reported $15,000 raise ?

    The problem, financially and otherwise, with the Troy City Schools is clearly expressed in Kitchen’s final comment, “we have to trust them…” The role of the Board of Education is to not trust its administrators. The Board should challenge, question, and investigate, not just rubber-stamp.

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    • TR186

      Most teachers aides in the systems around here have been here for just as long or longer than most of the teachers in the system. A $15,000 raise for a support staff person is not even a blimp on the radar of the budgeting problem. Most support staff don’t even make $20,000 per year. They are expected to put in the same hours as teachers, and sometimes do just as much or more work. Getting a $15,000 raise just raised them about poverty level and they can afford to actually work there. I know because I did it for the last 2 years, with a 4 year college degree. Deducting insurance, retirement, and taxes my net was about $1000/month.

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  • Stacy Graning

    Please note: The spending per student figure in the original story was incorrect. The Troy City Schools will spend $8,308.46 per student, compared to the 2011-2012 state average of $8,405. We’re sorry for the mistake and any confusion it has caused.

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  • HappyDad

    It should not be a surprise to anyone that the system’s reserves have plummeted over the past couple of years. The board, at the recommendation of the superintendent, has approved numerous projects which have drained the money supply. There is no doubt that the teachers deserved the 2% increase in pay. I have no problem with it. It seems that the board and superintendent should make sure that the teachers AND SUPPORT STAFF receive timely raises. Was the support staff, across-the-board, included in this 2% raise. If not, why not? Did just certain ones, such as the one cited by “Observer”, receive increases? I have two questions: First, is it reasonable that any support person was so underpaid that they deserved a $15K increase in their annual salary? Second, how is it that “Observer” is privy to this information? Maybe Observer is observing from the inside?? It is my understanding that there are only 2-3 people who would have access to this type of information. Am I wrong? If I am not, it stands to reason that “Observer” is an insider or he/she has received this information from an insider. If I am wrong, I stand corrected.

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  • Observer

    Although administrators try to keep salaries a secret (this is important when mischief is afoot) salaries paid by the city school are not secret. The salary schedule and amendments to it are public records which anybody can demand to see and copy (Code of Alabama 1975 – 36-12-40.

    The school board minutes for a called meeting July 22 include the adoption of a salary schedule and specific changes. That the schedule was adopted in a called meeting instead of a regular meeting should raise a red flag.

    An aggressive newspaper would demand a copy of the schedule adopted July 22, 2013 and copies of the last two or three salary schedules in order to determine if certain persons have been cherry-picked for excessive raises. If they find that individuals have been selected for raises they should hold the Board and Superintendent’s feet to the fire to find their justification. Was the person promoted to a new position? Was the position advertised and applications accepted? Were there qualifications established and did the individual involved prove he possessed the certifications necessary for the position?

    Hicks claims he is trying to save money by reducing locally funded teaching units, but how much of the deficit spending is the result of giving raises to athletic coaches, hiring additional coaches, and rewarding special friends while classroom teachers and most support personnel have gone for years without raises?

    When Chresal Threadgill leaves to take over the Elba system how much more will his replacement be paid than was Threadgill. How much more did the new assistant get who replaced David Helms?

    Either the school board or the newspaper (preferably both) need to serve as the watchdog to keep the school administration honest and transparent.

    The Messenger report was only $6000 per student per year off in its report of spending by the school system. It stressed the statement that the school system is receiving $1-million less than it did five years ago (what evidence was offered to support that statement) but glossed over the fact that the board adopted a budget with a deficit of $9,000,000.00 for one year.

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    • HappyDad

      Observer, thank you for your informative response. It is impossible for most people, including me, to attend the board meetings. Even if I was able to, I am not familiar with the protocol of how business is conducted. I appreciate you for staying abreast of what is going on and for calling the newspaper and the board to task on being a watchdog over the school system’s administration. It’s going to be interesting to watch how the selection of Threadgill’s replacement pans out.

      I would like to see The Messenger publish the salaries of teachers, principals and assistants, administrators (including the superintendent), and support staff. Thanks again, Observer.

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      • Observer

        HappyDad, you are far from being alone in not being able to attend school board meetings. Some members of the board appear to have the same problem.

        The Board holds its regular meetings at 5:15 pm, a strange time not designed to entice many parents or others to attend. Called meetings are even more inconvenient for the public to attend. Five of the last eight meetings of the board have been “called” sessions with starting times of 7:15 a.m. 5:30 p.m. 7:30 a.m. 7:15 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.

        Of the last 25 board meetings, six have been called and 19 regular meetings. Of the five board members one has been absent 12 of 25 times; one five of 25 and another two of 25. Two members have one absence each (there is one meeting July 15, for which minutes have not been posted).

        If the public will recall US history,the meeting of public bodies being set at inconvenient times or places is a device used to keep the people from knowing what is going on – it was one of the abuses by the Crown cited by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence to justify the American Revolution against the tyranny of King George and England.

        Students, parents, employees and citizens ought to be concerned and contact members of the board to encourage them to change the regular meeting time to a more convenient time for working people and insist on called meetings being held at times and places where the public will be welcomed.

        The Alabama legislature in revising the Open Meetings Act in 2005 included a provision requiring public bodies such as the school board to provided direct notification to anybody who requests such notice including the time, date and place of a meeting (Code of Alabama 1975, 36-25A-3(a)(6)).

        The Troy City Schools web-site has an icon entitled “Notify me” which allows people to sign up to receive special announcements from the school system. This system seems and ideal application to notify interested individuals of “short-notice” meetings, but apparently is not used to tell anyone when the board is meeting – another thing you might want to discuss with members of the board and encourage them to comply with the law.

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    Observer, do you know if it is a requirement now to possess a Master’s Degree in order to obtain a teaching job with TCS? Do you happen to know how much time they spend social networking as opposed to teaching when class is in session?

    In reference to the board saying they will just have to trust them, if the police asked for 6 Sherman Tanks, do you think the council would trust them or ask them why they needed them?

    Do we really have “declining” tax revenues? A college town should be booming with tax revenues. Where are the city leaders on this issue? They should be out passing an ordinance where you cannot chain your pet alligator to a city owned light pole or something. That is a big problem here.

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    • Observer

      A master’s degree is not required to be hired. Teachers have an incentive to obtain a master’s as this increases their salary.

      Professional personnel are paid on a salary schedule which uses their degree and years service to determine their pay. Two teachers with the same degree and the same experience are paid the same amount regardless of what they teach – an advanced science teacher with a master’s and ten years experience makes the same amount as a physical education teacher with a master’s and ten years.

      Teachers can earn supplements for coaching or some other activities usually in the form of a cash bonus plus additional months on their contracts.

      Support personnel also have a salary schedule but the problem arises when titles are changed and there is only one person in that specific title. Administrative salaries begin with a schedule but there is too much play in them. Plus there is the curious notion that administrators must be paid more that teachers or others they supervise – a superintendent with a master’s degree and five years experience makes more money than classroom teachers with master’s degrees and 20-years experience (a fortunate trade-off is that administrators do not attain tenure and serve at the pleasure of the board).

      Regarding your question, “Do we really have ‘declining’ tax revenues? A college town should be booming with tax revenues…” The local schools have taken several hits on local tax revenue. Each time a significant piece of property (i.e. Plaza Shopping Center, the former Alatex factory, numerous residences on Park and Madison Streets) become property of Troy State that property is lost to the property tax base of the community. The university is a state entity and regardless of the amount of rent it receives for such properties the city and county do not collect property tax. The federal government, at least, makes payments to state and local units in-lieu of taxes where its activities have a major impact.

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  • Observer

    The budget article begins with the statement, “Despite an increase in enrollment…”

    Is there an increase in enrollment? What are the numbers? Knowing that the seventh and eighth grades are at the high school this year along with the faculty and support personnel a passing glance at the parking lots does not suggest an increase in student vehicles. Even with some faculty and staff parking in the student lots it would appear there are fewer students than last year.

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  • gotellit

    Was the article incorrect about the amount of revenues and expenditures as well? The amounts quoted just don’t seem to add up to me. A link to the actual budget would be helpful. Observer, who is the Board member who can not attend even half of the meetings?

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  • 2cents

    Sounds like a bunch of Tom Foolery to me. I just can’t understand something. If TCS will be operating with around 2 months operating reserves, revenues have dipped 1 million over the last five years, and pleasant raises being given, then what are the long term goals of the Board? To bury their heads in the sand and pretend nothing is wrong? Our economy is not getting better, and it looks as if this downward trend will continue. So what are we gonna do about it? Are we going to trim fat where possible? Stop with the sweetheart deals? Get a reign in on the administrators? If we don’t fix this now, it’s going to be a whole lot of bs in the future. And the future is something they don’t seem to be concerned about. Don’t look at the man behind the curtain, eh?

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