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Kingsport schools eye uses for their share of county tax increase

Rick Wagner • Jul 29, 2012 at 2:52 AM

KINGSPORT -- If Sullivan County's property tax rate increases and provides additional money for education, Kingsport teachers and support staff may get a little bigger raise.

But the head of the Kingsport school system said a good chunk of the money, if it is received, may go to non-recurring expenditures.

That could include bringing wireless Internet access to all schools, not just half the elementary schools and the middle schools and high school.

Kingsport's school system expects to receive about $920,000 from the 9 cent portion of the proposed 20 cent increase earmarked for education based on the city system's proportional share of students among the county, Kingsport and Bristol school systems.

Superintendent Lyle Ailshie said although the Kingsport Board of Education has not discussed the matter, he hopes the system spends only part of the recurring money -- which becomes part of the maintenance of effort requirement of local government -- on recurring expenses.

"I would prefer not to put all that money in recurring expenses," Ailshie said.

He is suggesting the system reinstate the 2.5 percent raise for teachers and support staff, which was pared down to 2 percent. That would add about $300,000 of $900,000 projected from the property tax rate increase back to the school budget.

He also suggested using some of the other money to bring wireless Internet (Wi-Fi) to four of the eight elementary schools that don't have it. The system has already planned to spend about $300,000 to bring Wi-Fi to Dobyns-Bennett High School, Robinson Middle School and Sevier Middle School.

In addition, Ailshie said the system could use some of the money for technology devices, such as iPads.

In balancing its 2012-13 budget, the Kingsport BOE cut all current and proposed academic coaches. The cost for all 11 would have been about $1.1 million. Funding for nine the past two years came from $750,000 in federal funding that just ended.

Ailshie said he wants to evaluate and rejigger the academic coaches program for possible reinstatement in 2013-14.

"I am a very big believer in the importance of academic coaches," Ailshie said.

He said international studies have show the effectiveness of the coaches, which are more mentors to teachers who provide suggestions on resources and building good learning programs for students.

They generally do not teach students on a regular basis but do sometimes deliver sample lessons. With new expectations and the ramped-up Tennessee accountability model, Ailshie said first-year teachers don't have three or four years to get up to speed.

"They have to be absolutely winning from day one," Ailshie said.

Kingsport City Schools Budget Director David Frye said one relatively small line item he would like to add back to the budget is a $40,000 cut in equipment.

Other non-personnel cuts in the city school budget included a savings of $99,000 by eliminating the Early College program with Northeast State Community College, which had started as a pilot in January.

Ailshie said he hopes to bring back Early College later. In the meantime, he said students already in the program may be able to continue, to an extent, through an as-yet-undeveloped articulation program with Northeast State and/or East Tennessee State University. Instead of college instructors teaching students for high school and college credit, the students would get high school and college credit through high school teachers.

The Sullivan County Commission has a budget hearing set for 6 p.m. Monday and a called meeting at 7 p.m. during which commissioners will vote on the 2012-13 county budget -- including the tax rate increase. Both events are to occur in the large upstairs courtroom of the old County Courthouse in downtown Blountville.

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