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CSD budget increase includes cost of reopening Westchester Elementary

Decaturish updates

CSD budget increase includes cost of reopening Westchester Elementary


Superintendent bonus, bond money also on the Oct. 8 school board agenda

Things are far different today than they were in 2004 when City Schools of Decatur closed schools because of declining enrollment. One of those schools was Westchester Elementary.

The school system recently decided to reopen the school, located on Scott Boulevard, because of an enrollment surge.  When the Board of Education meets on Oct. 8, one of the items up for discussion will be a proposal to increase the school’s budget by $2.1 million. Nearly half of that amount – $932,000 – will go toward the reopening of Westchester, according to CSD records

Westchester currently houses CSD’s central office, but will reopen as a school in 2014. CSD central office will move to the city’s Beacon Municipal Center when that project is completed.

According to CSD documents, Superintendent Phyllis Edwards is requesting the budget increase because the school system has a surplus that’s greater than 15 percent of the school system’s yearly expenses.

The CSD memo to the school board says, “The Superintendent is proposing a General Fund budget amendment in the amount of $2,100,000, which when coupled with the projected FY2014 operating deficit, will bring fund balance down to approximately $7,000,000 and within the state legal limit.”

Here is the full list of the superintendent’s suggested uses for the $2.1 million:

– $100,000 to Exceptional Student Services for the increase in enrollment

– $100,000 to the Energy line item account for the anticipated rise in energy costs

– $100,000 to cover a shortfall in the Legal line item account

– $50,000 to the General Administration Professional Services line item account for outside contract work including the assistance from The Sizemore Group addressing enrollment projections

– $100,000 to address local school instructional technology needs

– $55,000, along with Pupil Transportation State Bond funding of $77,220, for the purchase of a special needs bus

– $225,000 in discretionary spending for all city schools, spending that will be determined by individual school principals and leadership teams

– $325,000 to provide each full-time employee with a $500 bonus

– $113,000 for an additional Assistant Principal at Renfroe Middle School

– $932,000 will be committed to the opening of Westchester Elementary School

More from the Oct. 8 agenda: superintendent bonus and bond money

Another item on the Oct. 8 agenda includes a proposed $16,000 bonus for the superintendent.

“On several occasions, during difficult budget times, the Superintendent has not taken the bonus although awarded based on merit,” a memo to the school board says. “In an Executive Session, the Board reviewed the goals and outcomes and discussed providing a bonus for the past year to the Superintendent.”

And remember when the Decatur City Commission decided against putting a school construction bond on the 2014 ballot?

The school system may have found another way to obtain at least some of the construction money.

School board members will hear a presentation for school financing called the “COPS option.” Using this financing, the school system would be able to get up to $20 million, according to the memo given to board members.

“After discussion with the Board, I (Editor’s note: not clear which person this is referring to) was asked to contact our Financial Adviser to see if any other financing options existed which might at least get us started on one site; preferably the High School,” the board memo says.

The board documents don’t explain what COPS is, but I was able to find a description of it on the website of the Smith, Gambrell & Russell law firm.  COPS is an acronym for “certificates of participation” and the school system would borrow the money using a lease-purchase agreement.

“Certificates of Participation (COPs) are a specialized subset of lease-purchase contracts sold as securities resembling bonds,” the law firm explains. “Typically, a trustee issues securities that represent a percentage interest in the right to receive payments from the Local Government under the lease-purchase contract. Although the same state and federal restrictions apply to COPs as apply to other lease-purchase financings, the COPs financing is more complex and generally resembles bond financing.”

However, unlike standard bond financing, COPS doesn’t require voter approval.

Should be an action-packed meeting on Tuesday.