ROGERSVILLE - One of retiring Hawkins County Schools Director Clayton Armstrong's last official acts was to bring back good news from a meeting in Anderson County on Thursday that the system would be receiving slightly more than $3 million in additional "BEP 2.0" state funding.
The bad news was that nearly half of that sum would be absorbed by mandatory 3 percent teacher pay raises and mid-year health insurance hikes. Another bit of bad news, the state still hasn't said exactly how the schools can spend the remaining new funds.
The additional funds are part of Gov. Phil Bredesen's program for using cigarette tax hikes to benefit public schools.
Subtracting the mandatory spending increases, the system will actually receive about $1.7 million in new funding from the state, Armstrong said.
That money must be spent addressing the needs of at-risk students, but the state has yet to establish specific guidelines for the spending.
"There is an accountability system with the use of these funds, and they will not be doing a rollout of that accountability until later during the summer - hopefully before school begins," Armstrong said. "They simply did this to enable us to prepare budgets, and we'll cross the bridge of accountability for the use of these funds later. Like most systems we're very appreciative of Gov. Bredesen and the bipartisan approach to passing the BEP 2.0.
"Granted, Tennessee still ranks at the bottom of the country in expenditures per child, but this is a step in the right direction."
Although Armstrong is now officially retired from the Hawkins County School system, he will be staying on through the budget process to lend a hand to new director Charlotte Britton. Armstrong has been the chief architect of the Hawkins County School System's annual budget for more than two decades.
He said the Board of Education will likely be presented with the proposed 2007-08 school budget when it next meets in regular session on July 12. Assuming it is approved the school budget will then be submitted to the Hawkins County Commission's Budget Committee so it can continue working on the overall 2007-08 county budget.
"There are more restrictions on this funding that we would have hoped, but any new funding that benefits children is a plus," Armstrong said.