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PHOTO GALLERY: Despite new cuts, Hawkins BOE still has $4 million budget deficit

July 11th, 2014 7:00 am by Jeff Bobo

PHOTO GALLERY: Despite new cuts, Hawkins BOE still has $4 million budget deficit

A frustrating night for Hawkins County BOE chairman Randy Collier, who learned Thursday that despite recent cuts the projected 2014-15 budget deficit still stands at a little more than $4 million. (photo by Jeff Bobo)

ROGERSVILLE — The proposed 2014-15 budget deficit update that Hawkins County school board members received Thursday evening was a little less discouraging than the nearly $4.5 million deficit reported June 26.

During a special called budget workshop on Thursday, director of schools Steve Starnes told the Board of Education that the overall proposed 2014-15 budget deficit has been reduced to $4.067 million.

More specifically, the projected $3.687 million deficit in the general purpose fund which was reported to the BOE on June 26 had been cut by $264,578 to $3.422 million; and the June 26 projected deficit of $794,523 in the transportation fund had been reduced by $149,893 to $644,630.

Those reductions were made through a combination of spending cuts and shifting of certain expenditures over to federal funding.

Following his 45-minute presentation, Starnes asked the BOE for direction on where to go from there.

Thus far, the board has yet to be presented with any proposals or scenarios involving an increase in tax revenue and/or cutting personnel.

Starnes has already said it will be difficult to balance the budget without new revenue, or making unwanted job cuts to a budget that is 85.5 percent personnel.

The BOE agreed to take a look at the information over the next two weeks and meet again for a budget workshop on July 28.

Board chairman Randy Collier said some difficult choices will have to be made at that July 28 meeting.

"I'm not for a tax increase," Collier said. "I want to look at this budget versus last year's budget and see if there's any more cuts we can work out. We need to be responsible and trim the fat before we ask for any additional money from the taxpayers."

Some of Starnes' budget presentation Thursday covered the history that led the BOE to its current budget deficit.

Over the previous five fiscal years, the BOE has used savings to help balance the budget, to the tune of more than $7.6 million overall.

As of the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year, Hawkins County Schools has an undesignated fund balance of $11.76 million.

Last year alone, the BOE used just shy of $3.7 million in savings to balance the budget.

As of the end of this current fiscal year, those savings are projected to be down to $5.3 million.

Tennessee school systems are required to maintain an undesignated fund balance of no less than 3 percent of their overall budget.

Hawkins County's budget, as presented Thursday, requires $54 million in spending, which sets the mandatory minimum required undesignated fund balance at a little more than $1.6 million.

The Hawkins County Commission hasn't approved a tax revenue increase for the school system's general purpose and transportation funds since the 2005-06 fiscal years nine years ago.

In related news Thursday, the BOE took no action on a recommendation from the Athletic Committee earlier this week seeking $25,000 for sports facility upgrades in 2014-15.

Those projects included $8,000 for drainage issues at Bulls Gap School to utilize a frequently flooded field; $7,500 to purchase a wrestling mat for Church Hill Middle School; $7,525 to purchase a new sound system for the Volunteer High School football stadium; and $2,200 to buff and coat the surface of the gym floor at Clinch School.

Those projects had been part of a larger list of proposed athletic facility projects totaling $50,000 which were voted down by the BOE in April.

Board member Kathy Cradic said she felt it wasn't the right time to approve new spending while the budget situation remains unresolved.

Vice chairperson Holly Helton made a motion to approve the Bulls Gap project by itself, but that motion failed for lack of a second.

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