Kingsport schools present $66 million budget to BMA

Matthew Lane • Apr 16, 2007 at 11:33 AM

KINGSPORT - Subject to change.

That's the message Kingsport City Schools officials gave to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday evening about their proposed 2007-2008 budget.

KCS officials and every member of the Kingsport Board of Education attended the BMA work session Monday afternoon to present, and offer support, for the proposed $66.1 million budget.

Some of the highlights of the budget include an increase of 6.5 teaching positions and 6.5 classified positions, $1.4 million for pay raises, additional money for nurse and bus driver pay, more than $31,000 for new library books, and $147,100 additional for health insurance.

Overall the budget is $2.4 million more than last year's. However, the BOE is only seeking $455,000 in additional money from the city.

And according to Director of Schools Richard Kitzmiller, this figure is subject to change.

"We're going to have more qualifications in this year's budget than in most years. Things have just changed," Kitzmiller said, adding that three bills pending with the state legislature could affect KCS' funding.

Kitzmiller said the governor's proposed 40 cent increase on a pack of cigarettes could give KCS an additional $600,000. Another bill earmarking a portion of the Tennessee Lottery money to school capital projects could result in KCS receiving between $600,000 and $800,000. A third bill, giving teachers a 3 percent raise instead of the proposed 1 percent, could provide an additional $220,000 to KCS. KCS Finance Director David Frye said the $600,000 tobacco tax money has been plugged into the proposed budget.

"It's an atypical year in state funding," Kitzmiller said. "We're going to have to present the budget as we know it now and put a placeholder in as more information comes in."

As for the $455,000 request, Kitzmiller said once KCS receives more information from the state, it's 50/50 the amount would decrease.

Alderman Ken Marsh said he thinks the amount would ultimately be zero.

"It's a placeholder, and I don't expect that money to be there ultimately. I expect that money to come in from a variety of sources that they've estimated," Marsh said.

Mayor Dennis Phillips said at this time he would not recommend the request.

"They can come up with that money out of their budget, and at this time until I see that they've squeezed their budget as much as we have to squeeze ours, I would not recommend it," Phillips said.

Last fall the city earmarked $14 million for the construction of a new 500-student elementary school in the Rock Springs community to meet future demands and to alleviate near-overcrowding levels at Johnson and Jefferson elementary schools.

On Thursday, the BOE learned the cost for the new school came in $2.5 million over the estimate. Two possible cost saving measures are eliminating the geothermal heating/cooling system ($1.1 million) and reducing the size of the gymnasium ($400,000), which would also prevent it from being used in AAU basketball tournaments.

During Monday's budget discussion, the BMA asked KCS officials about these two items.

Kitzmiller said the $1.1 million for the geothermal system was higher than expected.

"The geothermal system is something we support, but the $14 million will not carry it," Kitzmiller said. "Based on further information, it may reduce the $1.1 million."

"What we've been told is that number will shrink," said BOE President Randy Montgomery.

Many BMA members, as well as City Manager John Campbell, appeared supportive of the geothermal system, citing the fact that Unicoi and Washington counties are implementing similar systems in some of their schools. However, they also wanted to see more information on the system and whether the cost could be reduced.

Kitzmiller said the payback on a geothermal system is five to seven years.

"There is a payback period, but we're trying to get more definite numbers," Kitzmiller said.

Campbell said the city should study the geothermal system "real hard" and that more work needed to be done regarding the architect's numbers.

Phillips said the board would look very favorably at doing geothermal if it is shown the cost and payback.

"It's really difficult for this board to make a decision on something where we really don't have a good handle on what it's going to cost," Phillips said.

Kitzmiller said KCS would continue to leverage the architects to get better numbers on the system.

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