Arbogast blames the media for his mistakes

Floyd County school superintendent Terry Arbogast is blaming the media for news getting out about his controversial — and questionable — handling of multiple raises he received from the school board during his tenure as the system’s administrator.

That’s wrong. The media did not approve multiple raises in phone calls without any public record. The media did not artificially-low salary line item to the board of supervisors for approval. The media did not keep the actual salary paid to the superintendent from the public record to avoid “taking heat” from teachers who didn’t get a raise. The media simply reported the fact.

The only ones Arbogast has to blame for his woes is himself and a complaint school board that traditionally gives him anything he wants.

After a meeting of the school board this week  board member David Sulzen said a number of county residents have told him they are very upset with how the school board has given the superintendent multiple raises without being open and honest with the board of supervisors or the public.

“It appears the entire image [of the district] has changed,” Roanoke Times reporter Katelyn Polatntz reported Sulzen as saying in the school board meeting. “A lot of people are thinking things have been done improperly.”

Copper Hill resident Jesse Lawrence agrees. Lawrence went to the school meeting this week and then came to the board of supervisors meeting tonight to say he thinks the school board and its superintendent have — at the very least — deceived the public and should be held accountable.

Looking at the history of how the school board reported Arbogast’s salary suggests a pattern of concealment and one that — at best — is less than transparent.

The most recent budget request submitted to the Board of Supervisors shows the school superintendent’s salary is $98,000 a year.  That’s the same as it has been for the last few years.

But that figure is both wrong and low. Arbogast’s actual “base pay” is $118,000 a year and change. When you add in a fat car allowance of $18,000 a year plus benefits that includes a generous annuity the school superintendent’s monthly paychecks add up to 168 grand over a 12 month period.

That’s the figure county treasurer Mary Turman gave to Courthouse Supervisor Case Clinger and to Times reporter Polantz.  Her story in last Sunday’s edition of the paper outlined — in detail — just how much the superintendent is paid and the multiple accounts — including salary money left over from teacher vacancies — he taps to fund that salary.

After the school board meeting this week, Poltantz reports Arbogast told her: “”You’ve turned my staff against me. You’ve got the community upset with me.”

Polantz did her job. She reported the facts. She did a better job than me because I had the same information but had not reported it yet. What has upset the community and pissed off school teachers is the secretive way the superintendent and the school board has handled inquiries into his salary.

Arbogast is in damage control mode, meeting with teachers and school system staff to try and contain the fallout.

The superintenent told me two weeks ago that he left his salary line item at the $98,000 when it was — in fact — more because he did not want to show he received a raise when teachers in the system did not. I reported that in The Floyd Press and received many phone calls and emails from residents who found that admission appalling.  An earlier story about questions raised by Courthouse Supervisor Clinger brought even more comments, most wondering just what the school board was doing.

While most teachers are afraid to speak out publicly against the man and board that controls their salaries, Floyd County High School David Turpin is not. He says he emailed board chairman Doug Phillips and asked him to resign. Phillips has not responded.

Others have told me they will work to defeat any school board member that seeks re-election. Three — David Sulzen, Margaret Hubbard and Clay Link — are up this year. Each has served on the board for more than 10 years.

Phillips and Arbogast tell different stories about the reasons behind the salary raises. Phillips told both the Roanoke Times and me that the board approved raises when the school superintendent got offers from other school systems or talked about leaving is job. Arbogast says he only interviewed for one other job and withdraw from consideration.

While the stories differ, the facts remain consistent. The board has nearly doubled the school superintendent’s salary during and very little public record exists on when the raises were approved or how they were funded. The budgets submitted for approval by the Board of Supervisors do not reflect the true level of compensation for the school system chief.

At their meeting this week, the school board passed a CYA resolution that said: “”All salary and benefit payments to Division Superintendent Terry E. Arbogast for fiscal years 1996 to 2011 are ratified, approved and included in all adopted school budgets.”

Supervisors aren’t buying. Last week, they voted to assume more control over the school system budget.  Tonight, they slashed $265,285 from the school system budget request — giving the same level of funding as the current year — and told the school board to come back with a revised budget for next year.

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14 thoughts on “Arbogast blames the media for his mistakes”

  1. Jerry, the B.O.S. maintained level funding from FY11. However as you know till we get the revised budget by categories and its approved, the final amount could go up or down

      • Jerry, I believe you are correct. I think both state and federal money are being reduced. It should be pointed out that the Board of Supervisors is basically asking the School Board to supply a budget based on these numbers. Once the Board of Supervisors get this new information they can change the budget some more.
        The budget is really tight and the state has put the county in a really bad position. I really hope the school and the supervisors are both willing to work together to come up with a budget that works for everyone. The last thing we need is for state cuts to affect the kids.

        • Lauren,the two Boards have a history of working well together.Part of the state and federal money comes in earmarked for certain things,such as Title 1 etc.Part of the money from the county goes to cover loan payments.The rest is at the discretion of the School Board.Most likely something will be cut.It is my understanding there are positions open in the budget,perhaps those could be used to cover some of the loss,again up to the School Board.State cuts are already affecting the county.The school budget has been frozen at level funding from the county for sometime,yet we are at about 2 million dollars over the mandatory amount of local funding.That includes funding for loan payments.No easy answers for either Board.

          • Yes, the state is putting both boards in a really hard position. State funding continues to be cut and costs keep shifting toward the localities. It looks great on the state budget because they can balance it without raising taxes, however it puts Floyd in a real bind.

  2. Jerry,
    If I understand correctly I believe they are proposing level funding for the upcoming year. This would be a cut from the original budget outline but not a cut in funding from this year to next year.

    • Lauren,I hope so.There is a big difference.Also there is a misunderstanding about teachers pay.Some people think the BOS can increase their pay,not so. The BOS can put funds in a category but not a lineitem.That will be the School Boards decision to make.

  3. I don’t see how we can trust anything in the school budget. If Arbogast can do what he wants with funds without any oversight of the School Board, then a budget is worthless and all the monetary transactions by the school system should be scrutinized. The 4 long-time members need to held accountable and need to go, along with Arbogast. I would doubt that Linda King new of the money shuffle since the late night “phone calls” didn’t happen during her tenure.

  4. Are the actions of Arbogast and the school board even legal?
    Good for David Turpin for standing up and speaking his mind. This is exactly why these shenanigans are allowed to continue…because the powers in charge no darned well the teachers and employees are terrified of speaking up and risk losing their jobs. Trust me, if you piss those people will be fired or forced to resigned. But the cat is out of the bag now, Teachers, so go ahead and blast the people who have been taking advantage of you for all those years. Now is the time to stand up for yourselves.

  5. It would help if the Times had reported that the last increase Arbogast received was the same year as the last teachers’ raises. The budget is set before the Supt. performance/salary is reviewed. So it shows up the following year on the budget. I may not be exactly happy that the process hasn’t been transparnet and I may not agree with the amounts for travel and annuities, but let’s at least get the timing correct please. I am more upset with the lack of transparency than anything else. Perceptions are not good. And because of this, the entire district gets punished by flatlining the budget!? Did the teachers and staff do something wrong here, or am I missing something? I think they have been working very hard to educate our children, our future leaders, doctors, lawyers, farmers, sales force. I don’t know about you, but I want well educated folks in those positions. I don’t know about you, but I think that the incredible scrutiny this budget will have should help everyone understand it better. If good questions are asked and answered, then maybe there will actually be a useful dialogue and improve the future process.

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