Blount Schools considering multiple budgets
By Matthew Stewart | (email@example.com)
The Blount County Board of Education is considering three budget scenarios for fiscal year 2013-14.
The school board’s Budget Committee — composed of Director of Schools Rob Britt, fiscal administrator Troy Logan, and board Chairman Mike Treadway — presented three budget proposals during Thursday’s meting:
• $81 million, which assumes that the wheel tax referendum fails and the County Commission meets its maintenance-of-effort requirement;
• $81.9 million, which assumes that voters approve the wheel tax referendum and the County Commission uses generated revenue to meet its maintenance-of-effort requirement;
• $83.5 million, which assumes that voters approve the wheel tax referendum and the County Commission meets its maintenance-of-effort requirement in another way.
“We’re trying to cover all scenarios,” Britt said. “We need to be prepared to take action. We have certain things that we need to do, such as sending out notifications to employees.”
If the district receives $81 million, school officials are expected to eliminate 84 positions. They are expected to lay off between 40 and 50 employees, including two elementary special areas teachers, one Everett Learning Opportunity Center teacher, and one school psychologist.
School officials are still working to identify part-time teaching assistants who will be affected by the cuts, Logan said. The employees will account for the remainder of Blount County’s lay offs.
The school district employs 435 part- and full-time regular education, federal and special education teaching assistants, he said. The district employs 104 full-time teaching assistants and 331 part-time teaching assistants.
School officials don’t pay for all 435 teaching assistants out of the general fund, Logan said. He also advised that teaching assistants will be eliminated based on hire date, meaning that employees hired within the past year would be likely eliminated.
Board member Jim Compton requested legal advice regarding proposed budget changes. Rob Webb agreed.
Treadway advised that he’d try to schedule a time to speak with legal counsel.
Maintenance of effort
School officials forecast $79.4 million in budget revenues. Local property tax is projected at $18,606,000 or 23.4 percent of revenues; local sales tax is projected at $10,464,000 or 13.2 percent; state BEP funding is $44,700,000 or 56.3 percent; and all other revenues are projected at $5,630,000 or 7.1 percent.
However, Blount County Schools stands to fail its maintenance-of-effort test.
Under current law, actual revenues must be at least equal to the system’s current budget. A school system’s adopted budget also must allocate locally contributed funds, excluding capital outlay, in an amount at least equal to the prior year’s budget. If either condition is not met, a school district must set up a BEP reserve.
In order to pass the test’s first part, Blount County Schools needs to receive an additional $2 million in revenue. If the school district doesn’t receive these funds, school officials will be required to designate $2 million for a BEP reserve. Currently, the district doesn’t have enough fund balance to do so.
Blount County Schools also stands to fail the maintenance-of-effort test’s second part, which would result in the state refusing to approve it. In order to pass, school officials need to receive an additional $1.6 million.
Board member Don McNelly questioned whether wheel tax revenue satisfies the County Commission’s maintenance-of-effort requirement. School officials didn’t have an answer and advised that they’d seek legal advice.
If Blount County Schools receives $81.9 million, school officials are expected to add back 50 teaching assistant positions, four middle school teacher positions, and four high school teacher positions. They would still lay off four employees.
If the district receives $83.5 million, school officials are expected to restore:
• 50 teaching assistant positions;
• four middle school teacher positions;
• four high school teacher positions;
• three elementary, art, music, and physical education positions;
• one ELOC teacher position;
• one maintenance position;
• one Central Office position;
• salaries for supervisors and school administrators;
• elementary school athletic and yearbook supplements;
• athletic supplements in middle and high school;
• maintenance cuts;
• capital outlay cuts.
School officials are further expected to purchase $898,000 worth of textbooks. They would purchase class-size reading textbook sets for each school.
Officials have also discussed adding back $100,000 for library books and $350,000 for technology. School libraries haven’t received funds for books and materials in five fiscal years.
If the district receives $83.5 million, school officials still plans to lay off one employee: a school psychologist.
“We’ve got a big gap between what we asked from the County Commission and the best case scenario for an exemplary school district,” McNelly said, referring to the board’s $86.87 appropriations request. “We still have a big gaping wound.”