Kingsport BMA may provide additional $800,000 to schools

Rick Wagner • May 9, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — City leaders Monday afternoon are to review a draft budget proposal including $800,000 in additional funding for the Kingsport school system, according to City Manager John Campbell and Mayor Dennis Phillips.

The school system’s share of the draft budget would be just less than half the Kingsport Board of Education’s request for $1.71 million in additional funding for 2009-10.

The $800,000 would include $300,000 that would add to the city’s maintenance of effort requirement, meaning that unless the system lost students the new baseline for the city’s annual appropriation to the school system would increase from about $8.77 million to $9.07 million.

“Our marching orders were no tax increase, period,” Campbell said Friday afternoon following a BOE meeting Thursday night at which members lamented pending massive cuts in personnel and programs in Kingsport schools if the city did not fund a substantial part of the $1.7 million.

Potential areas of cuts, BOE Vice President Randy Montgomery and member Pat Turner said, could include six Spanish teaching positions at the elementary level, other elementary related arts programs except physical activities required by the state and federal government, and meeting only state minimums in things such as the number of credits required for graduation (22 required by the state instead of Dobyns-Bennett High School’s 28).

Campbell said all city expenditures are facing scrutiny this year, mirroring local governments nationwide.

The BOE’s plan was for about $700,000 of the request to go to one-time capital projects and not be part of maintenance of effort, with the other $1 million a permanent annual increase making for $9.77 million a year from the city to the schools.

Campbell said that of the $800,000, $300,000 would be one-time capital funding, another $200,000 would be one-time capital funding but meant to allow the school system to offset operational costs of the new John Adams Elementary School in the Rock Springs area, and $300,000 would go toward maintenance of effort in the operational budget.

“We’re not adversaries of the school board,” Phillips said.

Under the BOE budget proposal presented to the BMA April 20, the general purpose fund — where most 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.

The capital improvement projects budget, funded by bonds, would decrease.

Cuts already included in the proposed school operational 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 $343,000 a year, but the board voted 4-1 to include that in the request April 16.

Campbell said there had been some sentiment on the board for the city to help with additional one-time capital costs at Adams, but the BOE Thursday chose to plug a $280,000 shortfall — which fell from original projections of about $560,000 — with money from a Hawkins County bond issue in which the city system shares since part of the city is in Hawkins County.

During the BOE meeting, Superintendent Richard Kitzmiller said school and city budget officials are looking at fine-tuning revenue estimates, but he said overall the operational and capital budget were flat on revenues aside from a possible city increase.

Campbell said that for the first time in half a century or so, five of the seven BMA members and the city manager are Dobyns-Bennett graduates. Campbell said the whole BMA and he want to help the BOE keep Kingsport schools strong.

“We’ve got an outstanding school board that wants to keep us at the top,” Campbell said.

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