Kingsport BOE votes 4-1 for $59.07 million budget

Rick Wagner • Apr 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Proposed elimination of elementary Spanish instruction at the city’s elementary schools is on hold, at least for now.

The Kingsport Board of Education Thursday night voted 4-1 to recommend a budget to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen that would reinstate $343,200 in funding for six Spanish teachers at the elementary schools.

Since no other cuts were made to offset the cost of the six teaching positions, the proposal seeks $1.75 million more in city funding for the 2009-10 operating budget instead of the $1.4 million increase the last draft budget did.

However, of the operational budget increase, $710,000 would be one-time capital expenditures that would not be part of required maintenance of effort in later years.

“I just continue to question the wisdom of eliminating the Spanish program,” BOE member Pat Turner said, adding that business people have told her the program helps them promote their businesses and the area. “It’s one of the things that sets up apart. If we are going to be known as a system of excellence, we need to keep the language.”

Voting for the $59.07 million operations budget — up slightly from a 2008-09 budget of $59.05 million — were Turner, Vice President Randy Montgomery, President Susan Lodal and Ron George.

Wally Boyd cast the lone vote against Montgomery’s motion, saying in tough economic times he couldn’t vote for the larger funding request and that he would support bringing Spanish back later, with a more comprehensive K-12 Spanish curriculum plan.

“I don’t know how to do it with this budget,” Boyd said.

The only pay increases in the operational budget are for teacher step increases every year from one to 15, then again at 16, 21 and 26.

The budget asks for $1.76 million in additional funding for the operational budget over current-year funding but $2.66 million less than current-year funding for debt service.

All told, the BOE is asking the city for $903,200 less in overall funding for 2009-10 than the current 2008-09 fiscal year.

Since 2004-05, the city has held steady on its annual operational budget appropriation of $8.7 million, but capital improvement project funding from bond issues has varied.

For 2010-11, as part of the five-year capital improvement projects plan the BOE voted to approve Thursday night, plans are to spend $4 million, with $3.48 million likely coming from a city bond issue or other city funding pool. Plans to place support services and the Central Office in one building instead of three would be the lion’s share of the money, taking $3 million. That would open up the current Central Office on the campus of Dobyns-Bennett High School for student use.

The CIP amount would grow to $10.35 million in 2011-12, with the lion’s share of the spending being $7.5 million in new middle school classrooms.

Superintendent Richard Kitzmiller has said both those proposals might be sorely needed if Sullivan County changes its policy on school choice and forces hundreds of students in annexed areas out of the Sullivan North and Sullivan South zones into the city school system.

The BOE is to present its budget proposal to the BMA at 4:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

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