published Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Hamilton County Commission praises school cuts

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School superintendents dodged tough cuts in the past, but Hamilton County Commission Chairman Larry Henry said the school board finally has found the right person to execute the trimming they've wanted for a long time.

"I have sat here and seen budget after budget that tough cuts couldn't be made," Henry said.

When commissioners unanimously passed their own budget Thursday, they also approved a $316 million budget for Hamilton County schools. Administrators trimmed $17 million to balance their budget.

Before the vote, commissioners made a point of telling new Superintendent Rick Smith that he proved himself with the budget.

"I am on record for a year and a half shooting arrows at the board of education," said Commissioner Tim Boyd. "Central office gave us something to show the administration is being good stewards of this money. This shows you are in earnest."

Next year's budget for schools eliminates 25 positions, including 10 central office jobs, two assistant principals and nine teaching positions. But only two secretaries will be laid off, Smith said.

More than $4.5 million will be taken from the district's reserve fund to keep schools operating, draining the reserve fund down to between $10 million and $11 million, just below what the state requires.

But a Board of Education member said ousted superintendent Jim Scales, not his successor, should get credit for developing a bulk of this year's budget.

"Scales' budget was approved," Commissioner Linda Mosley said after the vote.

The school board voted 6-3 to buy out Scales' contract in May for between $285,000 and $300,000, and the decision stirred a heated communitywide debate over race, support of urban schools and local leadership.

Mosley, who opposed the buyout of Scales, said several of Smith's tough budget proposals amounted to grandstanding, such as the plan to get rid of medical benefits for 49 contract school bus drivers, which was thrown out by school board members last week.

Interrupting a series of commissioners praising Smith for presenting a balanced budget, Commissioner Warren Mackey asked Smith if the school system had presented balanced budgets in previous years.

"Yes, for four or five years," Smith said.

Smith said his $1 million cut to central office is deeper than what Scales wanted to do. Losing fat in the central office was a longtime talking point for some county commissioners and school board members.

Smith didn't ask the commission for additional financial support on Thursday even though school board members have urged him to request $1.1 million in PILOT funds, or payments in lieu of taxes, that have been collected from Volkswagen.

"It wasn't the time to bring that up," Smith said. "It's part of our discussions privately and publicly."

PILOT agreements are tax breaks used to lure companies, such as Volkswagen. Under the agreements, businesses don't have to pay full property taxes for a certain number of years, but they must pay the share of property tax that is slated for schools.

School board Chairman Mike Evatt said Thursday the system will request the PILOT money -- intended for emergency education needs -- from the commission in the next few months.

Leaving the building after the vote, Smith showed relief that the budget approval, his first big move as schools chief, was over.

"Well, I came out and I've got all my skin," he told a security guard. "This may be the only time I can say that."

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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328Kwebsite said...

We look forward to saving money by having elections, instead of self-appointed, self-paying Republican cronies in any county and city office. We also look forward to reminding the entire county of the "slaves learned to read" attitude of the disgusting tools on the school board. We'll learn to read every law we can to sue anyone who tries these crony Ponzi schemes again.

The "cuts" appear to be not replacing the lower-ranking jobs "created" by people getting paid more to vacate their old jobs.

Fake cuts.

The ousting of Superintendent Scales cost us over $500,000. It resulted in a lot of promotions and pay increases for political friends of the Tool Board.

Who would have thought a little Tool Board seat would result in being a financier of the Metro Payoff Club that provides rich people with 100K jobs and $328,000 website payoffs in an election year, when they need to buy ads to get more 100K jobs and website payoffs?

Thanks, Tool Board! You are better than the Easter Bunny! You are the Tooth Fairy of Government Money Laundering and Budget Fictions.

Without School Board Toolies, how can the City and County Government cronies lie their way in public past their oath of office? Nothing quite like serving yourself when telling everyone else you're serving the people, is there?

We can't wait to hear what y'all have to say about 11th grade Economics class, or anything that has anything to do with actually running a school.

We give the Tool Board full credit Creative Writing, as a result of their financial fictions. However, we must give y'all an 'F' in Remedial American History for your "Slaves learned to read" comments.

You could start your intellectual redemption to junior high school levels with an essay on the history of literacy tests and poll taxes after the civil war and how corruption masquerading as morality has effected government inside the United States with respect to citizenship and voting.

When those Republican cronies in the school system got promoted as a result of the Half Million Dollar Scales Ouster, who will do their old job? According to Superintendent Smith's policies, outlined above, apparently no one will. Republicans call this "cutting jobs."

The same number of people are employed. They're being paid more. They call this a "cut."

Perhaps they should take an elementary school class on fact and opinion. Their thievery of the government funds seems to be justified only by the most extreme fictions and rationalizations.

Maybe they could stop lying and start admitting that being wrong is expensive.

We're not fooled. We're angry. We're going to replace all of these people who did this as soon as elections will allow.

Thanks, Tool Board.

July 30, 2011 at 7:49 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Meanwhile, the County Commission hangs on to the PILOT funds. Since PILOT payoffs from VW are "not" taxes, then they don't have to be used lawfully, as taxes would have to be. They can be held indefinitely and used as graft, bribes and payoffs to unelected "friends" of the party.

How else can you run a Metro Payoff Club if you don't have a good, solid bank account? Without a strong financial base, then they'd have to make all of their illegal payouts through budget fictions. Like, $10 Million dollar lies about what defined a liability in the City budget. Or, by trying to tell us that people promoted after a firing is a "cut" in the number of employees.

Interestingly, the pols will begin to believe in equity after the budget talk is done, but right before they get their paycheck. Until then, it's all about lying over what's an asset and what's a liability.

The County will never use those PILOT funds for anything but paying off their political friends, if that. Trying to get politicians to release their grip on cash money only works if the money is about to be released into the vacuum of their own wallets.

Thanks for admitting the budget lies, County Commission. It's okay. We knew you were lying all along. We saw your lips moving. Like, when y'all were doing all that whispering to get Mayor Coppinger appointed.

Bravo, County Commission! Your public policy is the best horror fiction of the year! Keep up the good lies. We hope you reap every bit of the rotten seeds you are sowing.

July 30, 2011 at 8:22 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

If we are cutting, can we begin with Mr. Henry and them Mr. Smith? Unfortunately, education costs money and you have to have an educated work force in profitable businesses to build your tax base with high paying jobs. By paying to play, your electorate wins in the end.

Or we could just go to cookin' meth for a living or smokin' crack - both sound as good as some of the ideas we are hearing from our astute commisioners and school board..

July 30, 2011 at 8:43 a.m.
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