Chattooga BOE Approves Millage Rate, 2018 Budget PDF Print E-mail
News - Local News
Tuesday, 29 August 2017 11:26
The Chattooga County School Board approved its 2018 budget and its millage rate but not without some controversy at the meeting last Thursday. 
While the decision to reduce property taxes passed unanimously, the approval of the 2018 budget resulted in a 3-1 vote. Board member John Agnew voted against the budget presented by Superintendent Jimmy Lenderman.
Alma Lewis was absent.
“The budget is built around the 4-day school week,” Agnew said. 
He thinks students aren’t getting the best education by going to school four-days. He admits students go to school longer, but the material being “crammed” into their day isn’t being retained.
“We are having a problem with our children learning anything,” Boardman Agnew said. “Mr. Lenderman believes that there is only a fringe element out there [against the four-day week]. But it’s not.”
The board held two public meetings to hear comments from the public about its budget. The final meeting was held last Thursday and only one member of the public made a comment.
Julia Houston, a Professor of Early Childhood Education at Shorter University, has also taught in Summerville and the Catoosa County School System and has grandchildren in the Chattooga County School System was the only person that spoke at the public meeting.
“I have a question about the budget, why is there such a big increase?” Mrs. Houston asked.
We can’t answer questions, she was told.
“I was curious and I looked at the budget and then I went back the last several years and looked at the last increase and saw that you are asking for an 11 percent increase,” Houston said.
She said she looked at data from surrounding school systems and that might be a typical increase for a school system and it may not. She also looked at data between 2014 and 2016 from surrounding schools.
According to Mrs. Houston, Calhoun City over that period of three years had a 4.2 percent increase; Dade County had a 3.7 percent increase; Catoosa County had a 5.8 increase and Walker County had a 9.1 percent increase.
“Chattooga County had a 23-percent increase,” she added. “That’s a large amount, especially for a system where we hear about how much money you are saving; how much better it is to be on a four-day week and how much it helps our system. Yet we have one of the largest increases in this area.”
She added that from last year to this year it was an 11 percent increase.
“That seems like a large increase for a system that is running four days,” Mrs. Houston continued.
“What figures are you saying for this year?” Supt. Lenderman asked.
“This year what you are asking for is $30 million,” she answered.
“You have the old page and I was going to answer it because it is legitimate,” the superintendent said.
The superintendent said to give Mrs. Houston a “real one” and if she looked, the system had $5.5-million in the bank.
“The real figures are not what you see,” Supt. Lenderman said.
“Are you telling me that the figures that the state department . . .” Mrs. Houston began saying.
“No, what I am saying when we made our page, we put the money we had in the bank on both ends,” the superintendent said. “What I am saying it is not $30-million.”
“But you still have a 23-percent increase,” she added referring to the expenditures.
“Using what figures?” Supt. Lenderman asked.
“The one from the state department,” Mrs. Houston answered. “I didn’t make these numbers up, they came from the state department.”
“I’m looking at the figures and don’t see a 25-percent increase,” Supt. Lenderman said. “I’m not supposed to answer questions but I’m not sure what figures you are following,” the superintendent said.
“May I ask what the point of this meeting is?” Mrs. Houston asked referring to the meeting to take comments from the public on the budget.
“The point of all meetings is to take input, just like the commissioner, they take input. If you were to call a board member, they would get to the bottom of it and solve it but at a meeting, it is just for you to give your input,” Supt. Lenderman answered.
The speaker and the board then talked about the numbers that were being used.
“Are you saying what is reported on the state website is not correct, is that what you are saying?” Mrs. Houston said. 
Confusion then reigned for awhile on what figures both sides were looking at. Mrs. Houston said that she was looking at figures from the state website that had figures the local school board reported. The superintendent was looking at figures generated at his office.
“So what is reported on the state website is not correct, is that what you are saying?” she asked.
“I’m not sure what figure you are reading off the state website,” Supt. Lenderman answered. I don’t know what is added in what you are reading.”
The superintendent read off what the system received in QBE, state allotment when it seemed like Mrs. Houston was talking about the expenditures.
“If you look at comparing our system with other schools, I still compare the same data,” Mrs. Houston added, “Whether I have a correct figure you say or not. And we are still where other schools have an average of about six percent, ours is 23. ”
She and the superintendent continued back and forth on the figures being used and Mrs. Houston continued asking what the increase in spending was and was it justified in just going four days instead of five days.
It seemed like board members and the superintendent were talking about what the system received from QBE and Mrs. Houston was talking and asked about the increase in the system’s spending.
Mrs. Houston asked the superintendent what the percentage of the increased spending was and he said for her to come down to the central office and the meeting would move on.
Supt. Lenderman said the budget printed in The Summerville News and on the school website was incorrect in what the system reported.  He asked that Mrs. Houston come down to the central office and talk with the system’s bookkeeper about the figures.
Mrs. Houston indicated she was not sure if she would or not.
The News talked with Mrs. Houston on Friday and she said she looked at the financial report and the $30-million figure and they are saying it is really $25-million and the $5-million difference was the reserve.
“All school systems have a reserve,” she said.
She said that some of the comments made to her seemed to contradict themselves.
“We talk about how poverty-stricken this county is and we go four days a week,” Mrs. Houston said. “Wouldn’t it be better to go five days a week?”
She said she was just wanted the school system to be the best it could be for the children of Chattooga County.
The millage rate passed was 13.683 mills. Last year’s millage was 13.783, a reduction of 0.100 mill.

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