Blount school board cuts $1.5M from budget
By Matthew Stewart | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
School officials forecast $80,210,000 in revenue. Local property tax is projected at $19,050,000 or 23.1 percent of current revenues; local sales tax is projected at $11,242,000 or 13.6 percent; state Basic Education Program (BEP) funding is $43,213,000 or 52.3 percent; and all other revenues are projected at $5,478,000 or 6.6 percent.
School officials have also allocated $3.6 million in fund balance, all available funds above the state-mandated 3 percent. Fund balance represents 4.4 percent of all budgeted funds.
Since 2008-09, school officials have budgeted nearly $8.1 million in fund balance. They have also allocated $3,024,080 in nonrecurring revenue, including more than $2.3 million in Education Jobs Fund revenue to fund 26 regular education teachers and Prospect Elementary School’s new employees.
Blount County Schools will face challenges next year, according to school officials.
The budget is “too conservative,” said Trevis Gardner. “I’m very disappointed by the County Commission’s lack of compunction after failing to realize that our children are our greatest resources. They failed to grasp that we’re competing with other districts and states.”
The school district’s revenue levels have remained flat over the past five fiscal years, said Director of Schools Rob Britt. The district spent $77,203,748 in fiscal 2008-09, and it’s projected to spend $77,141,822 in the current fiscal year.
The system’s revenues haven’t kept pace with new, increased standards, he said. “The cost of operating our school system has risen dramatically. The demands on our teachers, principals and school system has risen dramatically, and our accountability has risen dramatically.”
Blount County Schools has been efficient with its limited resources, Britt said. “We’ve held the line in Blount County Schools, as well or better than any school system in the state.”
However, the current funding model won’t sustain the district any longer.
“We will begin the next budget cycle with a $4 million deficit, and I expect that number to grow,” he said. “We will need to locate additional fund balance, identify additional cuts or realize additional revenues. We do not anticipate additional fund balance, so it will be tough to make up this deficit without a tremendous boost in education funding.”
Blount County Schools is also worthy of additional investment, Britt said. “We are receiving below average funding. We are almost $800 below the state’s per-pupil expenditure. We are well below Alcoa and Maryville. Our students are important too. Our children are important too. Regardless of their family’s address in Blount County, every student deserves the same resources and opportunities. Every student deserves an extraordinary educational experience.”
The approved fiscal 2012-13 budget includes:
• A $180,000 decrease tied to three K-5 teaching positions that are being reduced through attrition;
• A $128,000 decrease tied to two high school math teaching positions that are being reduced through attrition;
• A $47,000 decrease for summer intervention programming that will be eliminated;
• A $28,000 increase for regular education teaching assistant positions that are being picked up in the local budget due to a federal funding formula;
• A $31,000 decrease tied to three part-time regular education teaching assistant positions that are being reduced through attrition;
• A $28,000 decrease for instructional supplies;
• A $40,000 increase for additional Advanced Placement (AP) textbooks that will be needed for the coming year. The district is doubling the amount of AP courses offered at its two high schools in the upcoming school year;
• A $47,000 decrease tied to two full-time special education teaching assistant positions that are being reduced through attrition;
• A $73,000 decrease to terminate Tennessee Rehabilitation Center’s contract. System-level administrators will ask the Blount County Commission to pick up the contract in the county’s general fund. The cities of Alcoa and Maryville also contribute local funds.
• A $10,000 decrease for special education instructional supplies;
• A $10,000 decrease for career and technical education (CTE) instructional supplies;
• A $49,000 decrease for library books;
• A $100,000 decrease for school performance incentives;
• A $59,000 decrease for a proposed director of communications position;
• A $23,000 decrease for a vision screening assistant;
• A $35,000 decrease for high school security guards that will be shifted to a Safe Schools grant;
• A $50,000 decrease tied to two full-time custodian positions that will be replaced with two part-time positions;
• A $5,000 decrease for water and sewer;
• A $91,000 decrease for building and property insurance, which the county isn’t collecting;
• A $40,000 decrease for maintenance-contracted services and parts/supplies;
• A $60,000 decrease for transportation assistance in middle and high schools;
• A $20,000 decrease for bus transportation contract increases, reducing increases from 3 percent to 2 percent;
• A $10,000 increase resulting from a Thomas Foundation donation;
• A $250,000 decrease for interactive whiteboards that are a part of the district’s three-year technology plan;
• A $100,000 decrease for computers and other technology that are a part of the district’s three-year technology plan;
• A $60,000 decrease for capital outlay;
• A $25,000 decrease realized by purchasing used CTE buses instead of new buses.
All eliminated positions were filled by employees in this past school year.
Board members approved one revision to a budget proposal presented in Friday’s work session.
Brad Long made a motion to increase the system’s sales tax projections by 1 percent, increasing the budget’s project growth to 3 percent, and allocate that $110,000 toward a third catch-up step for classified employees. Charles Finley seconded the motion.
The board’s budget proposal would have two of three proposed catch-up steps, in addition to a 22nd step for 55 employees who have advanced beyond the district’s step range.
Fiscal administrator Troy Logan advised board members that he was comfortable with the proposed 2 percent projection. “If we miss the mark, we’ll be in trouble. As Mr. Britt mentioned last week, we’ve already maxed out our fund balance. Any further loss would eat into it.”
Long later noted the district has realized 10 percent cumulative growth in the current fiscal year.
Finley then asked Logan about this year’s turnback. Logan advised the district will turnback $1.5 million.
“It seems like we’ve got money in our budget to do it,” Finley said. “I support this amendment, because it’s very important to support our staff and they should be rewarded. While $100,000 is a lot of money to me, it’s not a lot in an $82 million budget.”
Board members voted 5-2 in favor of Long’s motion.
Chris Cantrell, Mike Treadway, Rob Webb, Long and Finley voted for it. Dr. Don McNelly and Gardner voted against it.
Board members voted 6-1 in favor of the amended budget. Gardner voted against it.
The approved budget includes raises for certified and classified employees.
Certified employees haven’t received a full raise in three years, and classified employees haven’t received a raise in three years.