‘We are all Oneonta’



‘We are all Oneonta!’ was Oneonta City Schools Superintendent Michael Douglas’s rallying cry as he presented his case to a packed auditorium of parents and others at Oneonta High School Monday night. His case: to present the facts of the city schools’ financial situation to citizens, then leave it in their hands to express their wishes – either ‘make do’ or ‘do more’– to both the school system and the City Council.

‘We are all Oneonta!’ was Oneonta City Schools Superintendent Michael Douglas’s rallying cry as he presented his case to a packed auditorium of parents and others at Oneonta High School Monday night. His case: to present the facts of the city schools’ financial situation to citizens, then leave it in their hands to express their wishes – either ‘make do’ or ‘do more’– to both the school system and the City Council.

Oneonta Board of Education Superintendent Michael Douglas addressed parents forcefully Monday night concerning the needs and means of the Oneonta City School System. Earlier in the day The Blount Countian interviewed him about the purpose of the evening presentation. Both the interview and the presentation are summarized below. The presentation summary is keyed to the images shown in Douglas’s talk.

Interview highlights

• Recent developments with respect to funding support to city schools from the city of Oneonta: Douglas said the system received $26,000 from the city from alcohol excise tax in 2015; $74,000 was received as a one-time appropriation in 2016, following the Dec. 3 request to be included in the city’s budget.

• Douglas said that the council advised the school board in the December meeting that no funds were available in the current budget and that new revenue would be required; it was suggested the school board make a formal request for a referendum of citizens to vote on a sales tax increase to produce additional revenue for the school system. The school board did so by letter.

• Douglas said he was later informed by phone that the city did not wish to pursue a referendum on a sales tax increase.

• The purpose of the parent meeting, Douglas said, is to inform parents where the school system funding process stands, and “let democracy take its course. If they want us in the city budget, they’ll let their feelings be known. If not, I’ll sit down and be quiet and we’ll make do with what we’ve got and go back to educating children. I don’t believe there’s one member of the city council that doesn’t love the school system; I think they need to know the wishes of the people.”

The presentation (summary)

Overview
• To the school board’s knowledge, Oneonta is the only
city school system in the state that does not get an
annual appropriation or percentage of sales tax
revenue from its city.
• Oneonta ranks 133 out of 136 school districts in th state
in school funding per student.

Questions received from parents/public during past
year
• Why don’t we have a middle school band director?
• What don’t we have art?
• Why don’t we have middle school choir?
• When are we going to get a new track?
• Other districts are starting academies. Why not
Oneonta?

Oneonta funding sources per student
• state – $5,794
federal – $989
• local – $1,033
• total – $7,817

Local funding per student: Oneonta vs. other city systems • Oneonta – $1,033
• Cullman – $2,171
• Brewton – $2,175
•Trussville – $2,983
• Homewood – $5,251

What do other comparable city systems receive annually from their cities?
• Attalla $600,000
• Brewton $1.5 million
• Geneva $853,652
• Haleyville $1.6 million
• Oneonta $26,000 (2015); $74,000 (2016); not in
annual budget

How did we get here?
• In 1973 Oneonta City Council appropriated 1 percent of
sales tax revenue to build the present school.
• In 1997, city appropriated $1 million for
building additions.
• In 1997, the city removed the school system from the
annual budget.
• In 2007, the city appropriated $1 million to repair
damage from 2006 tornadoes.

What was impact of being removed from city budget?
• Decreased state funding with growing utility bills and
maintenance and operations cost, has led to teacher
cuts.
• The last 10 years, the school system has gone from 9
teachers paid for locally to 1/2 teacher paid for locally.
• The school system has absorbed central office positions
and combined jobs, to the extent that central office is
one of smallest in state.
• Twelve responsibilities were combined into four
positions.

Options
Pursue an additional sales tax earmarked for the
Oneonta School System.
• Do nothing. Wait on the results of the county-wide 1
percent sales tax increase and work with what we
have.

County-wide 1 cent sales tax
• Actual annual revenue for Oneonta
• $150,000 to city schools
• $210,000 to City of Oneonta, starting 2019
• (City portion to be allocated to city schools, to total
$360,000)

Oneonta city 1 cent sales tax
• total generated – $1.5 million
.75 percent to city schools – $1,125,000 million
.25 earmarked to City of Oneonta – $375,000

What do we want?
• a percentage earmarked yearly, to enable future
planning
• where would we spend money?

10-year strategic plan scenarios
• 1 percent of sales – comparable to most schools our
size
• .75 percent of sales – comparable to some and a huge
improvement
• . 5 percent of sales – less than most city districts our
size, but a lot better than now

Scenario: city commitment of 1 percent of sales – what
we can do?
Add people/programs
• band/choir teacher
• art teacher
• math teacher
• science teacher
• English language learner teacher
• 1:1 initiative, grades 6-12
• special education teacher
• elementary teacher
• instructional aide
• STEM technology teacher
• 1/2 technology coordinator
• 1/2 middle school principal
• network administrator
• class offerings – coding, science, technology,
engineering, math, expand robotics, foreign languages,
additional fine arts and vocational classes
Capital improvements
• band room
• football/soccer/track
• auditorium renovations
• library renovations
• baseball field
• weight room/regain gym
• enclose back
• add canopy front
• air condition all gyms
• new gymnasium
• indoor multi-purpose facility
• pay off note on elementary school
• save for new school (at capacity in 11 years)

Scenario: city commitment of .5 percent of sales – what
can we do? (Compare to 1 percent of sales above.)
Add people and programs
• band/choir teacher
• art teacher
• math teacher
• science teacher
• instructional aide
• 1:1 initiative, grades 6-12
• class offerings – coding, robotics, foreign languages
Capital improvements
• auditorium renovation
• library renovations
• baseball field
• weight room/regain gym
• add canopy front
• air condition all gyms

What if we do nothing? (Compare to 1 percent of sales
above.)
Add people/programs
• none
Capital improvements
• auditorium renovations
• library renovations
• weight room/regain gym
• add canopy front
• air condition all gyms

Conclusion – We are all Oneonta!
• Democracy works
• People of Oneonta should let their feelings be known to
both the city council and the city school system; they
will take their lead from you.

Petition
“Whether through existing or additional revenue, we
support the Oneonta City school System’s request to be
in the City of Oneonta budget on a yearly basis at a rate
comparable to other city systems of our size.”

E-mail address for citizens’ funding questions: fundingquestions@ocsredskins.com.