Cherokee School Board Approves Budget
The $518.74 million budget does not include increased student-paid fees for extracurricular activities.
The Cherokee County Board of Education on Wednesday night approved the school system’s $518.74 budget for 2012-2013 after Superintendent Frank Petruzielo told four parents who spoke that the budget does not include an increase in costs for parents of students who participate in band or sports.
The pay to play idea was introduced last month by board member Kim Cochran as a way to free up more money to be used in classrooms. That’s something that Michelle Dodge, whose four children have played sports in the Cherokee County School System, said would be detrimental. Many students wouldn’t be able to play if their parents had to pay more than they currently do, she said.
“There’s no way you could make pay to play equitable,” Dodge said. “The middle class is hurting as well.”
Marguerite White told board members they should have been ashamed of themselves for trying to balance the school system’s budget on the backs of the students. White said that at Etowah High School, lacrosse players already pay $1,200 in fees and football players pay the bulk of the sport’s costs, including some of the coach’s salaries.
“The county pays very little for football,” White said. “For other sports, (the district) doesn’t pay much, if it does at all.”
Christina Brown said her son is the captain of his school’s cross country team and also is a member of the track team. As a single parent with three children, she said her son will no longer be able to participate if student fees are increased.
“I’m sure I’m one of the many households in Cherokee County who struggle to make ends meet,” she said.
Petruzielo said that the upcoming year is the worst the school system has seen and that an ad-hoc committee will be tasked in the coming year to look at various options related to fees for extracurricular activities paid by parents.
“We’ve got to make the tough decisions no matter how hard they are,” he said.
In the last few years, the school system’s budget has been cut by $120 million.
“We’re down to bones,” he said.
The tax digest value, which is where the school system gets approximately half of its funding, is at the same level it was in 2006, and the district has 5,000 more students. If the financial situation doesn’t get better, some costs will have to be transferred to parents in the future, Petruzielo said.
“Going forward, that and just about everything else are going to have to be looked at carefully,” he said.
The budget increases staff furlough days from four to eight, increases the instructional day by 15 minutes; maximizes class size and reduces teacher allotments system-wide, affecting 93 teachers; decreases substitute teacher compensation by $10; decreases long-term substitute teacher compensation by $11; reduces high school athletic transportation supplements; and eliminates middle school athletic transportation supplements.
The budget does, however, include 3 percent longevity step increases for employees beginning January 2013. And it doesn’t call for an increase in property taxes.