Kingsport Times News Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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Sullivan BOE approves $82.1 million budget

July 9th, 2014 10:19 pm by Rick Wagner

Sullivan BOE approves $82.1 million budget

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County's school board has approved a 2014-15 budget of more than $82.1 million requiring no county property tax increase.

However, it was balanced by strategies that included doing away with at least 18 positions through attrition and using more than $1.8 million in fund balance. It also counts on savings of about $340,000 from convincing employees to switch to a limited PPO health insurance plan by the county system paying the full premium for a "gap" policy covering much of what the limited one won't cover.

The bottom line of the general purpose school budget the Board of Education approved in a called meeting late Wednesday afternoon is $82,157,061, which is $5,686,041 lower than the amended 2013-14 budget of $87,843,102.

The vote was 6-0 with one absent. Voting for the budget were Chairman Dan Wells, Vice Chairman Jack Bales and board members Todd Broughton, Jerry Greene, Robyn Ivester and Randall Jones. Betty Combs was absent.

Director of Schools Jubal Yennie after the meeting said that the almost $5.7 million drop was misleading since more than $4.9 million of that decrease is because the recently self-supporting school nutrition budget had been separated from the general purpose budget.

The only new position added is a school nutrition field manager position at an "I" pay level. The board voted 6-0 with one absent, to create that position and add to the cafeteria budget. It is supposed to pay for itself in savings within an already self-supporting budget.

Based on discussions in February, the pay for the position would range from $28,205 to $31,857 a year, or with benefits $42,123.44 to $46,602.61 a year, but savings per cafeteria of $1,200 a year would cover the cost, according to Manager of Nutrition Services Lisa Holt in February.

The initial general purpose budget was about $3.5 million out of balance when the budget process started. The budget includes no cost-of-living raises but includes step increases for longevity. Some equity money from Tennessee will be appropriated later after collaborative conferencing with teacher groups.

Yennie said he and finance director Leslie Bonner will present the budget to the County Commission's Education Committee when it meets at 6:30 p.m. today(Thursday, July 10), and soon after to the commission's Budget Committee. Yennie said he hopes the commission approves a budget by the end of July because until it is approved, school employees will be paid on last year's pay schedule and then be brought back to new levels retroactively.

The School Cafeteria Fund has $4,993,126 in expenditures and projected revenues of $5,028,125 in an attempt to build up a reserve.

Discovery Academy, the system's parent paid pre-school program, has a budget of $231,027, while the School Capital Fund, known as the Renovation Fund, is $1,288,500.

Responding to a question from Broughton, Yennie said the system is still filling teaching vacancies and probably will be doing so until shortly before school starts in August since some county teachers are lured away by higher pay in nearby city systems.

Under Tennessee school funding laws, countywide property tax and local option sales tax are shared proportionately to the number of students spread among school systems operating in that county. In addition, he said city systems get additional funding from city revenues, making it all but impossible for a county system to match or exceed city employee pay levels.

"I'm under no illusion we'll ever catch up. The law's not written in our favor," Yennie said.

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