Photo by Jon Anderson
Hoover school board 9-12-16
The Hoover Board of Education approved a $170 million budget for fiscal 2017 on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016.
The Hoover school board tonight voted 4-1 to approve a $170 million budget for fiscal 2017.
School board member Jill Ganus Veitch was the only board member to vote against the budget, saying she had concerns about reductions in money set aside for discretionary spending for most principals.
Principals commonly use their discretionary money for buying furniture, supporting professional development for their faculty and staff, hiring substitutes for teachers on special occasions, and assisting academic and athletic teams, fine arts groups and school clubs with funding.
However, Superintendent Kathy Murphy reiterated that she could not justify giving principals a lot of money for discretionary spending while presenting the school board a budget with a multi-million-dollar deficit budget.
For fiscal 2016, the school district divided up about $721,000 among its 17 principals to use as they saw fit for their schools, records show.
At Hoover High, Principal Don Hulin had $235,525 at his disposal to spend on educational purposes, records show. That amounted to about $82 per student. At Spain Park High, Principal Larry Giangrosso had $141,767 in discretionary money for 2016, or almost $87 per student.
Middle school principals had anywhere from $50 per student to $60 per student, while the amount for elementary school principals ranged from $17 per student at Trace Crossings Elementary to $35 per student at Shades Mountain Elementary.
Murphy said there didn’t seem to be a consistent approach in determining the amount of discretionary money for each principal from year to year, so she decided to equalize the amounts and give each principal $25 per student.
For Hulin at Hoover High, that means his allocation drops from $235,525 to about $73,000, based on enrollment figures provided by the school board. Giangrosso’s amount at Spain Park falls from $141,767 to about $41,350, based on enrollment numbers provided in the budget.
Cuts were not as steep at the middle and elementary school level. Berry Middle School Principal Chris Robbins’ discretionary funds dropped from $65,754 to $28,300, while Gwin Elementary Principal Kimberly White’s discretionary fund went from $15,026 to $13,075.
Veitch said she didn’t like cutting so much money from principals’ discretionary spending with only a couple of weeks’ notice. It doesn’t leave them with enough time to find alternate sources of income to fund the programs and special activities for which they use their discretionary money, Veitch said.
She doesn’t think the steep cuts are necessary when the school system currently has more than $100 million in its overall fund balance, she said.
Murphy apologized if two weeks was not enough advance notice for principals but said she doesn’t believe the cuts should come as a big surprise to any principal. She’s been touting the need to make budget cuts in both public meetings and principal meetings since she arrived on the job in June 2015, she said.
Photo by Jon Anderson
Kathy Murphy 9-12-16
Hoover schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy talks during a school board meeting on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016.
Murphy noted that each principal also has a reserve fund in which they carry over money from year to year and have discretion in how that money is used. Those amounts currently range from $6,836 at Shades Mountain Elementary to $261,354 at Berry Middle School, records show.
Additionally, six schools have funds available in central office accounts that earn interest every year. Those range from $17,138 for Trace Crossings Elementary to $671,532 for Hoover High. Murphy said that money is available for principals to access if needed, but Hulin, who just started his ninth year as principal at Hoover High, said he has never been aware that money was available for him to use.
He said tonight he still has some concerns about the cuts in discretionary spending but is relieved to know there is some money available to help continue to meet needs in the school.
He and his staff will continue looking for ways to save money, but “my expectation is to have the same opportunities and programs for our students and our teachers,” he said. “I’m in a much better state of mind tonight than I was before.”
Murphy noted that the central office has allocated $1.5 million for fiscal 2017 to support the hiring of substitute teachers. The central office may be able to help out with other expenses that in the past have been funded with principals’ discretionary money, she said.
Overall, the discretionary spending cuts are expected to save the system about $373,000 in 2017, records show. That helped cut the overall budget deficit for 2017 to $1.9 million.
That compares to an $11.4 million deficit that was projected for fiscal 2016 in a budget amendment that was approved this past spring, Chief School Finance Officer Tina Hancock said.
School board member Earl Cooper thanked Murphy for digging into the budget and looking for ways to cut expenses. Twenty-six jobs were eliminated in the 2017 budget, including 11 bus driver positions, thanks to route consolidation and better utilization of space on buses, school officials said.
Also, some salaries were lowered this year as vacancies were filled, and some employees’ contracts were shortened from 12 months to 10 months, or from 10 months to nine months, Murphy said. Travel expenses also were cut, she said.
Even in fiscal 2016, 10 months into the fiscal year, expenses are down by $2.8 million from the previous year, Murphy said.
For 2017, school system revenues are expected to be $167.7 million — up from the $156.8 million budgeted in revenues for 2016. Total 2017 expenditures are forecast to be $169.9 million, up from the $167.9 budgeted in expenditures for 2016.
Official enrollment numbers for the 2016-17 school year have not yet been compiled, but the budget projects enrollment at 13,916 students, up from the 13,836 forecast in the 2016 budget.
Most of the school system’s expenditures are in its general fund, which is expected to be $135 million in 2017. The majority of that money — $85 million — is budgeted for instructional services, while $21.8 million goes to instructional support, $18 goes to operations and maintenance, $5.6 million goes to auxiliary services and $3.3 million goes to general administrative services.
The school system also proposes to spend about $19 million from special revenue accounts, including $5.6 million for child nutrition, $2.35 million for special education and $1.8 million for an after-school program.
The 2017 budget also includes $10.8 million in debt payments and $3.6 million for capital projects, including replacement and upgrades of heating and air conditioning and kitchen equipment and various painting projects, Hancock said.