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Revenue questions keep Sullivan County school budget 'work in progress'

CHRISTAN M. THOMAS • May 15, 2007 at 12:09 PM

Rather than make budget estimates based on speculation of state and local numbers, Director of Schools Glenn Arwood said the system ‘would rather amend our budget once the cash is headed this way.'

BLOUNTVILLE - The Sullivan County Schools 2007-2008 budget could include up to approximately $6 million in increased expenditures, but revenue numbers are still unknown.

That increase is according to a draft presented by Business Manager Harry Trent at a special called Board of Education work session Monday. Trent called the budget a "work in progress," particularly on the side of revenues.

"Our biggest problem deals with revenue," Director of Schools Glenn Arwood said. "I'm sure you've been keeping up with reports on the BEP (Basic Education Program funding formula from the state) and how much money might be available. … We look forward to BEP estimates, but we know there will be some changes. Sometimes those changes are good, and sometimes they're not so good. … Right now, we don't have a real good number from state or local on revenues."

Rather than make budget estimates based on speculation of state and local numbers, Arwood said the system "would rather amend our budget once the cash is headed this way." Arwood added that he would not try to estimate revenues at this time.

Current budget documents based on early estimates show potential revenue of $84 million, though Trent said he "knows it will change" based on county and state numbers.

On the expenditure side, the largest portion of the proposed expenditure increase includes $1.9 million for a 5.25 percent salary increase for professional staff, which was agreed upon during contract negotiations between the BOE and the Sullivan County Education Association. A 5.25 percent raise for support staff represents another $450,000, and step raises account for $342,000. An anticipated 9 percent increase in insurance rates makes up an additional $797,000 of the increase.

Other potential increases in the area of personnel include benefits for school nutrition staff and special education assistant; an additional 10 teaching and four support positions; the addition of one technology position; two additional school resource officers; one food service field manager; one trainer; an increase in athletic supplements, which has already been approved by BOE action; and summer curriculum mapping compensation for teachers.

In addition, proposed expenditures for 2007-2008 include band/choir supplies; food service equipment and food cost increases; two special education buses; two new vehicles - a bucket truck and a technology van; and increased funding for the economically disadvantaged in all schools.

Total proposed expenditures would cost $5.92 million. With that increase, total expenditure estimates currently stand at approximately $90 million.

Arwood said the proposed expenditures were on a "wish list," and the system will take direction from the board as to what should stay on that list.

"We've said it was a ‘wish list,' but I think if you look at this list, it's more of a necessity list," Arwood said.

Board members said they did not want to remove anything from the proposed expenditures until after more information is known on revenues.

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