In lean times, taxpayers often help put school superintendents behind the wheel

7:37 PM, Oct 5, 2012   |    comments
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(AFP/Getty Images)

ATLANTA, Ga. --  As area school systems wrestle with budget problems, it is not unusual to see taxpayers foot the bill to put school superintendents behind the wheel of a car.

In Dekalb County, taxpayers recently helped purchase a 2013 Ford Explorer for new school superintendent Cheryl Atkinson. The vehicle, which is for her personal and business use, is part of Atkinson's contract.

It is more common for school districts to provide superintendents with a car allowance that can be as much as $1,500 dollars a month.

In Cobb County, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa receives a salary of $237,000 dollars a year.
In addition, he receives a car allowance of $800 a month.

Clayton County's interim superintendent Luvenia Jackson gets the same $800 a month car allowance in addition to her 195-thousand dollar a year salary.

In Fulton County, Superintendent Robert Avossa's salary is 238-thousand dollars a year.
His car allowance is $9,600 a year, or the equivalent of $800 a month.

In the state's largest school system, Gwinnett County Superintendent Alvin Wilbank's car allowance is nearly double that of the other areas surveyed by 11Alive.

Wilbanks, the longest tenured superintendent in the state, receives a $1,500 per month car allowance in addition to his $278,000 a year salary.

Like other metro school districts, Gwinnett's teachers haven't received a raise in several years.

"Administrators need to reprioritize their priorities," said Gaye McNeil of Citizens for Better Gwinnett. "If teachers are sacrificing, I think everyone up the line needs to sacrifice as well."

A spokesman for Gwinnett Schools says just like teachers, Wilbanks has not received a raise in several years. The superintendent also takes furlough days just like other employees.

Atkinson's new Explorer was purchased to replace an older vehicle she was issued when hired as Dekalb superintendent. School board member Paul Womack told 11Alive Atkinson's 2006 car had problems and needed to be replaced.

"It was a logical business decision," said Womack. "Replace a piece of junk that could break down any week or put on a new one."

The district traded Atkinson's old car and two others to purchase the 2013 Explorer. With the trade ins, the vehicle cost taxpayers $8,963.

A spokesperson for Atlanta public schools say Superintendent Erroll Davis doesn't get a car or car allowance.

Davis contract does allow him $10,000 for travel, but spokesperson Steve Alford says Davis hasn't spent any of that travel allowance and doesn't plan to.

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