Kingsport BOE officials await hard numbers

Rick Wagner • Mar 14, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport school system’s budget for 2009-10 has more question marks than answers, according to school officials.

However, based on what they know now, Kingsport City Schools can expect Tennessee budget cuts to be offset somewhat by federal economic stimulus funds.

But the level of state budget cuts and how the stimulus money will be used remain big unknowns. Other funding streams are projected to stay about the same or increase slightly.

County funding is about $20 million of the 2008-09 budget. Looking toward the fiscal 2009-10 budget and comparing it to the more than $60 million school budget this year, Superintendent of Schools Richard Kitzmiller and Director of Finance David Frye recently told the Kingsport Board of Education that a 2 percent increase from Sullivan County property tax growth was projected and would generate an additional $265,000, while a projected 2 percent increase in sales tax revenue would be another $134,000.

Frye said the reason the budget process is not fully under way, as it normally would be, are the uncertainties and unknowns of school funding and all governmental funding.

Of the current state funding of about $21.6 million, Frye said Basic Education Program money is projected to be about the same. But other state funding — including extended contract funds that pay for before-school, after-school and summer school programs — is feared to be cut entirely after 13 percent of $300,000 was cut this year.

However, Kitzmiller and Frye said stimulus money may help offset that.

Other state-funded programs that might be eliminated or reduced if the state makes cuts and no other revenue is found are coordinated school health, truancy intervention and family resource, Frye said.

The city contribution of $8.7 million is a dollar amount, not a percentage, which Kitzmiller said would change only if the school system asked for and got an increase from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

He said debt service of $6.1 million will decrease next year, and direct federal funding — not including the stimulus money, special education and Title 1 funding that flows through the state — likely would stay about $256,500. The “other” category — including tuition, donations, etc. — would stay about $1.57 million.

Without debt service, the budget this year is projected to be about $52 million.

Frye also outlined two other areas of possible revenue increases — additional students coming to the city system from annexed areas of Sullivan County and some tuition-paying county students, all likely to go to the new John Adams Elementary School opening this fall, and an increase in the city school system’s share of countywide property tax and sales tax revenue.

Operating the school will cost about $1.5 million a year, but Frye said part of that will be offset through personnel transfers from other schools and increased revenues from students transferring from Sullivan County to Adams and new tuition students at Adams.

The city’s proportional average daily attendance among the county, Sullivan and Bristol, Tenn., systems fell last year because of a surge in the Bristol student population. However, it has increased this year.

As for expenditures, Frye said the system may need to budget an extra $200,000 compared to the more than $1 million budgeted this year, about $300,000 for teacher step increases, about another $250,000 for health insurance, and $91,000 additional for workers’ compensation insurance.

The BOE is set to discuss the budget further at a work session at 7 p.m. Thursday and at a following meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 24.

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