ATLANTA -- There was a lot of clapping and hugging when the judge granted the temporary collection order requested by Fulton County – a lifeline that two school systems.
“Judge Harvey was well prepared today,” an attorney for Atlanta Public Schools said of the ruling. “Had done his homework as we like to say in the school system.”
But both superintendents made a point of saying they are not out of the woods just yet. In fact, even though this turns on the flow of money, there could still be some furloughs -- and some cuts.
“We are so pleased with the ruling today. It means that we will start seeing our revenue increase for the district that allows us to pay our bills keep people employed,” APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. “And of course, for Atlanta Public Schools, pay back the tax anticipation note that we voted for and received to help us keep our cash flow moving in the right direction to be able to keep an operational system.”
Both Carstarphen and Fulton County Superintendent Jeff Rose said they will be keeping all the current savings methods they've put in place.
And even knowing money is coming, they still have to tighten their belt and play it day-by-day. One big relief: at this point about 150,000 students will still be able to go to school and the teachers will get paid in December.
“If we cannot compensate our teachers then, of course, we will communicate with them but our plan is to prioritize two things: one, the safety of our students and two, the compensation that all of our employees deserve,” Rose said.
The only difference is that this time their second check won't come until the very end of the month.
“While this ruling is great and we have a lot of strategies in place to help us get back on track, I don't think it's going to be enough to get us to the finish line,” Carstarphen said. “So, there are a lot of additional strategies we're going to maintain until we get to Dec. 31 and that will require that our district make some sacrifices.”
Those sacrifices could mean closing school the entire week of Thanksgiving for non-essential staff and they will still have some furlough days but not for main teachers and staff.
APS is taking the following steps to address the short-term cash flow shortages caused by the delay:
- Slow outgoing cash payments
- Implement a hiring freeze, spending moratorium, and out-of-system travel freeze
- Delay the $500 one-time payment for employees not on the teacher salary
- Implement targeted furlough days for select positions (non-teachers)
- Defer unfunded pension payments
- Work with our charters to negotiate delayed payment
Fulton County schools, however, is fighting to prevent the system from losing days or pay for its employees.
“We will hopefully see some fruits of that labor; however we have a-ways to go so we are not making guarantees,” Rose said. “But we are telling our employees today that our intent is to get to winter break whole and that means without canceling days for students and of course maintaining compensation.”