School budget request to BMA now at $11.6 million

Rick Wagner • May 3, 2013 at 2:02 PM

KINGSPORT — City school leaders have cut a 2013-14 budget shortfall from $3.2 million to about $1.8 million.

They did it mostly with cuts in proposed expenditures — including a reduction of the proposed raises from 2 percent to 1.5 percent and whittling down the number of teacher coaches proposed to be added back to the system — along with a minor increase in revenue estimates.

The Board of Education voted 5-0 at its regular meeting Thursday night to approve a general purpose school budget of $67,104,755. In the simplest of terms, the budget is based on about $1.5 million in projected revenue growth and a $3,342,201 million increase in expenditures, with the school board formally requesting the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to make up the $1,811,105 with an increased appropriation — from $9.801 million to $11,612,505.

“I’m impressed you got it down to a palatable number,” BOE Vice President Carrie Upshaw said, to which BOE member Andy King added, “I think it’s a very, very reasonable budget for the city.”

The budget is to be presented to the BMA at a Monday work session.

“If we don’t get some significant assistance from the city, our school system is going to take a significant step backward,” Superintendent Lyle Ailshie said.

On the revenue side, some incremental changes were made, including increasing the local option sales tax projection to reflect a 4 percent $28,000 increase instead of a lower increase of $4,000. Budget director David Frye said the state is using a 3.5 percent increase estimate for sales tax, while Kingsport is using a 5 percent estimate.

Given that school funding is based on a 50 percent share of the local option sales taxes across Sullivan County and its cities, not just in Kingsport, Frye said 4 percent was a reasonable estimate.

Other revenues remain about where they were at a mid-April BOE work session.

On the revenue side, however, going from a 2 percent to 1.5 percent cost-of-living raise saved $212,500 for a total pay increase cost of $1.15 million.

Additional costs for increased enrollment were $680,200, including the hiring of six new regular education teachers instead of the draft plan that called for seven; an increase of $226,950 for Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee; $92,000 for four special education assistants cut from federal funding and half an office assistant for student records.

Fixed operations costs were listed as $687,700, including a health insurance 7.5 percent increase of $233,000.

Those all add up to $2,837,350.

Beyond that, for safety and security there would be one, instead of the previously proposed two, additional school resource officer for $65,000, to be added to Cora Cox Academy; academic program enhancements of $644,950, including six instructional technology specialists, formerly known as academic coaches, at a cost of $375,600 instead of about twice that for 13; and two Chinese teachers for $53,000 instead of four.

“It is a challenge for us to try to stay at the top,” BOE member Susan Lodal said of meeting mandates, expectations and goals.

The other parts of the school budget are a self-supporting school nutrition budget of $3.282 million; a federal projects fund of $4,405,443; and a school special projects fund of $1,076,458,

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