Sullivan BOE chips away at shortfall, cuts South CTE positions

Rick Wagner • Jun 3, 2013 at 11:05 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County school officials continue making budget cuts, including the school board’s Monday night vote to eliminate two career technical education teaching positions and programs at South High School.

Even with the cuts, however, expenditures for the draft 2013-14 budget would be about $4.5 million higher than revenues. Using $2 million in available fund balance would bring the shortfall down to $2.5 million.

The draft budget revenue total is $85,179,381, compared to expenditures of $89,756,661. The amended 2012-13 budget is $90,011,410.

The Board of Education voted 6-1 to eliminate the two positions and programs at South, upon the recommendation of Director of Schools Jubal Yennie.

BOE member Todd Broughton, a proponent of promoting expanding CTE offerings, voted against the change.

Yennie said South Principal Greg Harvey recommended the elimination because the programs, including computer-aided design and drafting and information technology, web/multimedia management/webmaster, just weren’t drawing enough student interest.

Broughton asked about morphing the CAD into robotics, but Yennie said that was difficult to do because of prerequisites required.

The BOE, which last month voted to base teacher staffing on a ratio of 17.5 students per teacher in the high schools, had to vote on the eliminations at South because they do away with two programs and could put the two tenured teachers out of work.

Yennie said if the teachers can’t find a placement elsewhere in the system, they would be laid off in a “reduction in force” and be put on a priority list for rehiring for positions for which they are qualified.

Yennie already had cut $2.147 million from the draft May 11 work session budget. That includes cutting 21 instructional positions K-12 and other matters in regular instruction directly affecting the classroom, saving more than $1.4 million, $46,775 out of special education and various STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math related arts positions whose work will be rolled back to classroom teachers.

“It’s a hard decision. We gained some good results in science this year,” Yennie said.

Other savings come from health insurance going up 5.6 percent instead of the originally estimated 7 percent.

In addition, the school nutrition budget of $4.9 million would be self-supporting for the first time, thanks to a $923,000 cut that includes no new capital for next year.

“We still have some work to do,” Bonner told the board in a work session before the meeting.

Yennie said he will meet with vendors this week to check into contracting out school nutrition, maintenance and custodial work and is still working on central office cuts. He also is exploring taking 144 maintenance workers down to the 36.25 hours a week of other full-time employees instead of their current 40 hours.

BOE member Robyn Ivester said she’d like to look at cutting board member pay if possible or at least not having an automatic increase tied to county commissioner pay, which is tied to the county mayor’s pay going up 4.61 percent under a Tennessee edict come July 1.

Yennie plans to present the draft budget to the County Commission’s Executive Committee Tuesday night, Administrative Committee Wednesday and Budget Committee Thursday.

All the committees meet at 7 p.m. in the old County Courthouse in downtown Blountville.

On other matters, the school board approved Yennie’s recommendation to drop consideration of a proposal to add a security supervisor to the system but balked at Yennie’s recommendation on a budget amendment to spend $70,000 to replace a freezer/cooler at South High after members asked why the proposal did not go through the normal channel of the Facilities Committee.

Finance Director Leslie Bonner said the matter did not come to the attention of the central office until about a few weeks ago and that there were safety concerns about the 33-year-old equipment.

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