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City school budget ups tuition, cuts driver's ed

Rick Wagner • May 2, 2018 at 1:08 PM

KINGSPORT — Kingsport City Schools is raising out-of-city student tuition rates by $200 a year — from $1,200 to $1,400 for Sullivan County students outside the city — and ending driver’s education.

Those are two of the ways the Board of Education balanced a more than $76.7 million 2018-19 operational budget Tuesday. All told, the operational budget is up $275,900 from the current school year ending June 30.

That spending plan, which will require approval and $644,000 in additional city funding from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to meet Tennessee maintenance of effort requirements, includes no cost-of-living raises for any employees but preserves step and percentage pay increases.

These and other changes, that do not include layoffs and $143,750 in new positions, were made to achieve a balanced budget after the Sullivan County Commission’s decision last year to remove 5.5 cents from the property tax rate from education and not share some other funds with the city systems. 

UNANIMOUS VOTE

The board Tuesday night voted 4-0, with Carrie Upshaw absent, for a 2018-19 operational budget of $76,752,700, a self-supporting nutrition budget of $4,193,200, a federal budget of $4,172,432 and a special projects budget of $1,248,525, making for a grand total of $86,366,857.

Chief Financial Officer David Frye’s initial proposed budget included a $100-per-year increase in tuition, which would generate about $25,000 to $30,000, and a freeze on step increases for Administrative Support Center (central office) employees that would save $25,000, but board member Todd Golden said the tuition increase should be $200 so the extra money would allow the ASC step increase.

“I say raise it more than that,” Golden said. “Sullivan County put us in this predicament and these are Sullivan County residents who elected the people who did this to us, so I say let this fall at the people’s feet who elected these officials. And if they (parents of Sullivan County tuition students) don’t like it, elect different (county) officials.” County Commission primary elections, some of which were de facto general elections because of no Democrats or independents on the Aug. 2 ballot, were held Tuesday.

BOE members voting for the amendment and later the amended budget were President Susan Lodal, Vice President Karen Reed-Wright, Eric Hyche and Golden.

Chief Student Services Officer Jim Nash said that the current tuition rates are $1,200 for Sullivan County students, $2,200 for Hawkins County and $3,200 for all other Tennessee students. However, 79 of the 300 or so tuition students are children of school system and city employees, who get discounted tuition rates for their children. The system has 40 new applications for tuition slots for 2018-19, but it remains to be seen how the increased cost might impact demand.

In comparison, Nash said, Bristol, Tenn., tuition is $1,400 inside Sullivan and $1,800 elsewhere in Tennessee, while Johnson City is $1,650 inside Washington County and $2,150 elsewhere in Tennessee. Nash said the lone Virginia student in the KCS system pays $9,500. Nash said 212 students are from Sullivan, 39 from Hawkins and 31 from other Tennessee localities.

DRIVER’S ED GONE

Doing away with driver’s education will save $150,000 a year but mean the loss of $30,000 in revenue for a net savings of $120,000. Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said the system might facilitate after-school and summer school driver’s ed paid for by families.

Frye said parents and students were not seeing reduced insurance rates. 

MEAL PRICE INCREASES

In the nutrition budget, a federal formula is requiring elementary lunches go up 10 cents to $2.35; high school lunches go up 10 cents to $2.60; staff lunches go up 25 cents to $3.50; visitor breakfasts go up 15 cents to $2.50; and visitor lunches go up 40 cents to $4. School meals will remain free in the Community Eligibility Provision schools of Sevier Middle, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Jackson and Lincoln elementaries. Johnson Elementary is being removed from CEP because it no longer has a sufficiently high concentration of students eligible for free and reduced meals.

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