Proposed cuts in discretionary spending for principals in Hoover schools have some principals very concerned about finances for this school year.
Hoover High Principal Don Hulin, in an email sent to faculty Wednesday, encouraged faculty members to take a very close look at the superintendent’s proposed budget.
“As principal, this proposal is extremely troubling on many fronts,” Hulin wrote in his email. “Probably the most disturbing is the reduction of principal discretionary funds from $85 to $25 [per student]. Understand this will impact daily operation of the school and [as] well as every single teacher, program, and extra-curricular opportunity within the school. Professional development, technology, library funding will be almost nonexistent.”
For 2016, Hulin said he received about $255,000 in discretionary money from the school board. Under Superintendent Kathy Murphy’s proposed 2017 budget, he would get about $73,000.
The discretionary money for principals was a key topic of discussion at the second public hearing on the school system’s proposed 2017 budget Thursday night as well.
School board member Jill Ganus Veitch said she is concerned about principals not having money to spend on things such as sending students to Scholars Bowl or science team tournaments and hiring extra substitute teachers so teachers occasionally can attend special events or handle special assignments.
Veitch said she is impressed with all the out-of-classroom accomplishments of Hoover students.
“We don’t want that cut out,” she said. “I don’t want us to take away what makes us uniquely Hoover.”
Hulin sometimes uses some of his discretionary money to help buy band instruments for students who can’t afford them, she said.
Veitch asked Murphy when principals were informed about the cuts. Murphy said she sent an email to all principals a couple of weeks ago informing them they could lose all or some of their discretionary money in 2017.
Veitch said she was concerned about the short notice, given that the 2017 budget year begins Oct. 1.
Murphy said no one should be too surprised at the cuts because conversations about the school system’s financial struggles have been ongoing for some time. “There is no money flowing like milk and honey,” she said. “People were on notice that this was going to be a very conservative budget.”
Murphy knows these cuts and others are painful, and she does not enjoy proposing them, but she could not continue sending a huge deficit budget for the school board to approve while sending large sums of money for principals to give out at their discretion, she said.
She also noted that most schools have healthy sums of money in their general school accounts left over from previous years and that principals have access to use those funds for school purposes as needed.
School officials still have questions about the discretionary money to reconcile. Murphy on Tuesday night said principals’ discretionary funds were cut from about $85 per student to $25 per student. Thursday night, she said they took another look at the numbers and determined last year’s amount was more like $125 per student. Hulin disputed that number and said $85 per student was in line with his records. They agreed to look into the issue further.
If the $85-per-student number was correct for 2016, the cuts in discretionary spending would save the school system roughly $835,000 systemwide this year.
When the 2016 budget was amended in the spring, school officials estimated they would end this fiscal year with an $11.4 million deficit, new Chief School Finance Officer Tina Hancock said. The proposed budget for 2017 cuts down deficit spending to $1.9 million.
After Thursday night’s budget hearing, Veitch said she still has a lot of unanswered questions about the budget and will continue to study additional information given to board members Thursday night.
“I don’t have the answers to all this,” she said. But she believes things will turn OK, she said.
Photo by Jon Anderson
Hoover school board 9-8-16
The Hoover Board of Education discusses the proposed 2017 budget on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016.
School board member Earl Cooper said Murphy has done a remarkable job of getting the budget deficit down to $1.9 million. There is no question the superintendent is doing everything she can within reason to lower costs, yet preserve the quality of learning in Hoover, he said.
“While it’s a tight budget, it’s not draconian,” Cooper said. “We’re not going to sacrifice the quality of education the citizens expect us to provide.”
School board President Stephen Presley said this is the fifth school system budget he has been asked to approve, and he is much more comfortable with this budget than any of the previous four.
Not only is the proposed deficit much less, but the way the budget was presented this year made it easier to understand, Presley said.
The 2017 budget put together by Murphy and Hancock shows the school system plans to spend $169.9 million in the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, while taking in $167.7 million in revenue and making use of about $300,000 from other sources.
The $1.9 million shortfall will come out of the school’s system overall fund balance, which is expected to be at $92.9 million at the beginning of fiscal 2017 and $91 million at the end of the year.
Presley said the school board likely will vote on the budget at its meeting this coming Monday at 5:30 p.m. The board meets at the Farr Administration Building at 2810 Metropolitan Way.