“You will get (cuts in ) programs and personnel. That’s the only place you can cut that kind of money,” school board member Wally Boyd said near the end of Thursday’s night BOE meeting.
Boyd and BOE Vice President Randy Montgomery said the school board shouldn’t wait until the Board of Mayor and Aldermen finalizes the city budget on second reading June 16 to make contingency plans.
The school board on April 20 asked the BMA for a city operations budget appropriation of almost $9.77 million, up from the current $8.7 million, with another $710,000 in one-time capital expenditures. Debt service payments under the BOE request would go up $175,000 to fund a half year of new debt in the amount of $3.5 million.
School Superintendent Richard Kitzmiller after the meeting said he believed City Manager John Campbell’s May 11 budget proposal would include some additional money for the school system, but nowhere near $1.71 million.
School board members said putting off things isn’t a good option since budgets likely will be tight for the next few years.
Kitzmiller said Tennessee revenues likely will be steady or slightly down for next year and not reach 2007-08 levels again until 2011-12, with a possible slight increase next year in county property tax revenue and uncertainty over sales tax revenues.
BOE member Ron George stressed that the 2009-10 request is $900,000 less than the 2008-09 request if bond-funded capital improvement project funds are included.
The general purpose fund, where city dollars go, would increase from almost $59.047 million to $59.071 million, while the self-supporting food service fund would go slightly down to $2.9 million, the federal projects budget would go from $3.5 million to $5 million — including about $1.25 million in federal economic stimulus money — and the special projects fund would go from about $1.3 million to $1.4 million.
Cuts already included in the proposed school budget include four high school teacher positions costing $228,000 to be absorbed into a proposed alternative high school program to cost $300,000 but projected to increase enrollment, as well as $160,000 in Central Office and support staff position cuts.
An earlier BOE budget draft would have cut six related arts Spanish teachers at the elementary level at a savings of more than $343,200 a year, but the board voted 4-1 to include that in the request April 16.
“We’re not talking just about a Spanish program. We’re taking about major changes,” said BOE member Pat Turner, who fought to have the Spanish program added back to the proposal.
With skyrocketing electricity costs and increases in health insurance costs, Montgomery said all related arts at the elementary level except for those including mandated physical activity could be at risk. In addition, he said requiring 28 credits to graduate from Dobyns-Bennett High School could be rolled back to require only the Tennessee-mandated 22 credits.
Turner and Boyd said the city leaders must decide how much of an emphasis to place on education in relation to other city expenditures.
Finance Director David Frye said the 2008-09 budget may end June 30 with about $250,000 to $300,000 in surplus to add to a current fund balance of about 2.1 percent, compared to state recommendations to keep a fund balance of 3 percent or, for a $60 million budget, about $1.8 million.
In other action, the BOE voted on budget amendments that included money to cover the start-up cost at the new John Adams Elementary School to open this fall on Road Springs Road.
Projections two months ago were a roughly $560,000 shortfall in start-up costs. However, Frye said that shortfall has dropped to $280,000, and upon his recommendation the board voted 5-0 to take that from 2007-08 Hawkins County bond funds.
The board also approved applications for various federal grants and programs, including federal stimulus money that will last only two years and comes with enhanced accountability requirements.