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Kingsport BOE seeks $1.8 million more from city

Matthew Lane • May 7, 2013 at 7:56 AM

KINGSPORT — Kingsport City Schools made its official request for $1.8 million in new funding from the city Monday afternoon, calling the request “reasonable” and just enough money to maintain the current level of service within the school system.

KCS officials presented its 2014 budget to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, giving an overview of projected funding, expenses and capital projects along with short-term and long-term goals of the system.

The school system’s budget is one portion of the overall city budget, which must be approved by June 30. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

The proposed KCS budget stands at $67.1 million or $3.3 million more than last year’s budget. Funding estimates are as follows: $24.7 million from the state (up $1.1 million from 2013), $15.9 million from county property taxes (up $308,000 from 2013) and $7.7 million from local option sales taxes (up $28,000 from 2013).

And from the city of Kingsport, school officials are seeking an additional $1.8 million in operating funds — an 18.4 percent increase. If approved by the BMA, Kingsport’s allocation to KCS would go from $9.8 million to $11.6 million.

“It is a significant request, but we truly pared this down a lot,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lyle Ailshie. “It is a more reasonable amount of money, it would maintain our system and make small steps toward moving forward with the vision of the school system.”

Last month, the Board of Education reviewed a budget calling for a $3.2 million request in additional funding and an overall budget of $68.5 million. That request was later scaled back to the current $1.8 million amount.

“If we don’t do this, we are going to be taking a step backward,” said BOE member Susan Lodal.

A breakdown of how the additional funds (from the city and other revenue sources) would be spent includes $1.15 million for cost of living raises, step increases for teachers and other personnel and an increase in nursing pay.

KCS is proposing to add 13 positions due to an increase in enrollment ($654,000) and 3.5 positions at Innovation Academy ($227,000). Five positions once covered by federal funds but now proposed to come from the KCS budget amount to $117,500. Other expenses, such as health insurance increases, vehicle maintenance, software license fees and utilities come to $687,000.

KCS officials say the system needs to spend $2.8 million more next year just to maintain the current level of service.

“Quite a bit of the $1.8 million is purely to cover growth,” said BOE member Betsy Cooper.

David Frye, finance director for KCS, said the system is estimating 75 additional students over the state estimate next year, but is budgeting for only an additional 50 students.

Ailshie said two-thirds of the requested money is due to enrollment, Innovation Acadmey or fixed cost items such as health insurance and utilities.

On the capital projects side of the budget, KCS earlier this year asked for $2.88 million in 2014 and $12.7 million in fiscal year 2015. However, last month City Manager John Campbell brought forth a revised CIP plan for the city, combining 2014 and 2015 capital funds into one proposed bond issue.

As such, Campbell recommended to the BMA that $3.4 million in capital funds be allocated to KCS over the next two years. KCS has stuck to the recommendation in its proposed budget with the money earmarked for three new school buses, a new roof for Lincoln Elementary, the construction of a walkway at Dobyns-Bennett High School and storage space at Kennedy and Roosevelt elementary schools.

The BMA gave no indication an increase was coming, and Campbell made no comment on the proposed budget.

Mayor Dennis Phillips encouraged Ailshie and Campbell to continue talking about the budget.

“No doubt that we’re going to look very hard at your request and (other) requests and see where a happy medium will be,” Phillips said.

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