Cobb County schools give final approval to budget

Cobb County School Board members on Thursday gave final approval to the fiscal year 2022 budget. Credit: screenshot of Cobb County Board of Education June 17, 2021, budget hearing.
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Cobb County School Board members on Thursday gave final approval to the fiscal year 2022 budget. Credit: screenshot of Cobb County Board of Education June 17, 2021, budget hearing.

Credit: screenshot of Cobb County Board of Education June 17, 2021, budget hearing.

Cobb County school board members for the second time in a week adopted its fiscal year 2022 budget after the district did not record or livestream a public hearing on the topic.

The budget was approved Thursday following a hearing to allow speakers to talk about the district’s finances. Thursday’s meeting was scheduled after the district did not record or live stream a June 10 hearing on its website due to “technical difficulties,” Cobb schools spokeswoman Nan Kiel previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Georgia Open Meetings Act requires governments to make public all meetings that have a quorum of members of a governing body in attendance. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cobb school district has restricted access to board meetings and streamed them online for the public to view.

Despite the technological snafu, the district continued to conduct the hearing. Cobb schools Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said the district in July will allow the public back into the board meeting room.

ExploreCobb County schools budget hearing beset by ‘technical difficulties’

The district’s general fund budget is $1.2 billion, and includes Cobb’s plan to give every non-temporary employee raises ranging from from 4% to 8.6%.

The budget and the pay increases go into effect July 1. Cobb’s budget does not include a tax increase, furloughs or layoffs. Pay raises would be applied in addition to any increases eligible employees are entitled to each year based on experience.

Cobb’s budget is based on the county seeing a 5.54% increase in its tax digest, said Chief Financial Officer Brad Johnson. The final digest numbers will be presented to the school board in July, he said.

“Taxpayers should be very encouraged at how an organization as large as the Cobb County School District, the largest employer in Cobb, manages the taxpayer dollars very efficiently and effectively,” Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said.

ExploreCobb County schools set new social media, public comment rules

Two residents spoke to school board members before they approved the budget. Heather Tolley-Bauer, a member of grassroots organization Watching the Funds - Cobb, said her organization will keep an eye on how the district spends its tax dollars, including the $166 million it’s slated to receive as part of the third federal coronavirus relief stimulus package.

“Because no matter what funds are used to make purchase, it all comes from the taxpayer, many of whom support our work,” she said.

She said Watching the Funds conducted a poll of educators, who said they would like to see Cobb spend money on improving HVAC ventilation in schools, hiring more faculty and staff and purchasing literacy and math materials.

Shannon Deisen, who spoke on behalf of a parent who has two children with special needs, said the district should use money to lower class sizes and hire more teachers to help educators provide more one-on-one support for students.

Board members unanimously approved the budget. Jaha Howard and Leroy “Tre” Hutchins did not attend the meeting.