Sullivan County schools awaiting clearer budget picture

Rick Wagner • Mar 22, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — A clearer 2009-10 Sullivan County school budget picture may emerge in early April, according to Director of Schools Jack Barnes.

For the past few months, speculation and estimates about school funding have varied in Sullivan County and across Tennessee.

And the wait is not over, Barnes said, although directors may learn some details during an April 6-8 meeting in Nashville.

“We’re waiting on the state to see what they’re going to do,” Barnes said.

He said one possibility is the federal stimulus package will be used to avoid or soften possible cuts of the extended contracts, which pay for before-school tutoring, after-school tutoring and summer school, as well as coordinated school health.

In addition, the system could receive stimulus money earmarked for capital projects like renovation or building — money he said the system needs to be ready to spend because it is intended to stimulate the economy and has a time limit on it.

“We can speculate all we want. But we actually have to wait, see what happens, and go with that,” Barnes said.

Of the school system’s $90.4 million budget plan for 2008-09, Barnes said about $24 million came from property tax, an amount he said may go up a few hundred thousand dollars.

Another $12 million came from sales tax, which overall has defied the national trend and increased. About $42 million came from state funding, including some flow-through federal money.

Barnes said $1.6 million was drawn from the fund balance to balance the budget, and he hopes that money — or a substantial part of it — can be returned to the fund balance.

The school system also is looking long term at a building project to put K-8 campuses across the county, replacing or supplementing some existing elementary and middle schools.

The Sullivan County Commission went on record in support of a $50 million bond issue, which would be shared with the Kingsport and Bristol, Tenn., school systems, based on student population.

Barnes said the system recently compiled a list of potential construction projects at the request of County Mayor Steve Godsey in case stimulus money becomes available.

Gov. Phil Bredesen said Thursday that he would unveil a four-year budget plan for the state next week, including how he would like to handle $5 billion in federal stimulus money. He said layoffs would be less than originally thought, but $1 billion still would be cut from the state budget.

Recommended for You

    Kingsport Times News Videos