The problem? It is about $2 million short on revenues to fund all proposed expenditures, not counting another $900,000 or so for a cost-of-living raise and a proposed STEM initiative. The final revenue numbers from Tennessee’s Basic Education Program are not yet available, but school officials said they are not expected to come anywhere close to closing the gap.
However, board member Todd Golden said the root problem is a funding change the Sullivan County Commission made in its 2017-18 budget expected to carry over into the 2018-19 budget, namely that the education revenues shared with Kingsport City Schools were reduced about $1.8 million. Board members said that even if that money were available for 2018-19, the budget still would be a little out of balance.
The county made the change under a loophole of sorts in Tennessee law that allows some education money not be shared on a pro-rated basis with city school systems.
Golden has posted on his Facebook page a call for voters in the upcoming county commission elections, including the May 1 primary and Aug. 2 general election, to press candidates on whether they will continue to not share the money or would consider restoring it to Kingsport and Bristol.
Chief Financial Officer David Frye, in a presentation to the board, said that step increase and other salary increases would cost another $716,900, new positions $144,150, other personnel increase $913,450, academic expenses $27,000, operational $219,950 and one-time capital another $167,600.
However, that doesn’t include about $700,000 to give a cost-of-living race and about $200,000 for the STEM or science, technology, engineering and math initiiatives suggested by STREAMWORKS Powered by Eastman, which Golden said was mostly about paying more coaches for robotics and other such activities and clubs. Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said the STEM funding might be done over three to five years.
Member Eric Hyche said classified pay scales need help and that STEM is “close to his heart. Member Carrie Upshaw said that the amount proposed for STEM, mostly to fund more coaches, could hire three teachers, but Golden said it represented about 30 coaches.
Frye is still putting together the draft 2018-19 operational budget, but it was about $76 million last year.