David Armstrong: Columbus chief operations officer responds to school board




This letter is in response to "The Columbus School Board Responds" article in yesterday''s Commercial Dispatch, allegedly written by Currie Fisher, Bruce Hanson, Glenn Lautzenhiser, Tommy Prude and Alma Turner, who currently hold the position of Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees.


I want to congratulate these five individuals for getting together and drafting such a well-composed, misstatement of the truth.


They stated that: "According to Lowndes County Tax Assessor, Greg Andrews, the school district has been shorted approximately $1.8 million the past three years, because the correct millage was not assessed by the city. If the correct millage had been assessed, the district would not be facing such difficult financial decisions."



Let me set the record straight here. Since fiscal year 2008-2009 ("the past three years") the school millage was set by the City at 62.97 mills because that is the exact amount that former School Superintendent Del Phillips asked for from the City.


In the first meeting I had with Glenn Lautzenhiser, Tommy Prude, Interim Superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell, school board CFO Kenny Hughes, the Mayor, three of our Council Members and our CFO, Mike Bernsen, I told Glenn Lautzenhiser what Dr. Phillips had requested, and Glenn responded: "Well, Dr. Phillips had no authority to ask for less millage. He never told us he had done so."


But there''s more to this story. Last fiscal year (sometime in August of 2010) I advised Del Phillips that his request of only 62.97 mills to fund their budget was far below the millage actually required. I showed Del my notes. He read them, agreed, then said: "It doesn''t matter. I can make it work; I can make it work."


According to Mr. Lautzenhiser, Del never conveyed this to his Board. When City representatives met with Del Phillips, he claimed he advised his Board and that they were fully aware that the millage he requested from the City was inadequate.


I Frankly, I don''t know who''s telling the truth here: Del Phillips or Glenn Lautzenhiser. But I''ll tell you what I do know: the Columbus Municipal School Board either knew or should have known that Del Phillip''s requested millage was less than the school board needed.


And I''ll tell you who else also knew the requested school millage was below par: their CFO, Kenny Hughes. In fact, when I asked Kenny that very question at the above referenced meeting, his response to me was: "Yes, I knew Del''s request was for less millage than needed." I then asked Kenny; "So, why didn''t you, as CFO, advise the school board of this fact since, as they claim, they had no knowledge of it?" Kenny never responded to my question.


I''ll tell you in a nutshell what''s going on here. We, unfortunately, have a City School Board that apparently "rubber-stamped" everything Del Phillips ever asked of them. I may be wrong, but I tend to side with Glenn: they probably didn''t know what Del did. In my opinion, that''s a pretty lame excuse.


(And just for the record, Tax Assessor Greg Andrews also told Glenn Lautzenhiser what Del Phillips had done.)


The City did set the correct millage- the exact millage Del Phillips requested, If the School Board is truly desirous of working together, then they don''t need to pass the buck when the true blame lies with them, their own CFO and their former Superintendent.


David Armstrong


COO, City of Columbus




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