Answering Questions II

The Loudon County Board Of Education's long awaited response to the Loudon County Commission's questions pertaining to sharp increase in in the school system's spending over the last few years, was presented to commissioner's at Monday's commission meeting. Back in August last year, county commission submitted a number of questions to the school board asking for historical data and information pertaining to the school system's massive increases in spending over the last few years while the enrollment has stayed relatively the same. 

To summarize Honeycutt's 67 page Power Point presentation, the school system is under funded, under staffed and under paid. Honeycutt gave commissioners a mountain of information that appeared to support his position. The big number to come from the report was that the school system needed at least another two million dollars just to bring the system up to the average state wide per pupil expenditures.

Commissioners Harold Duff and Sharon Yarbrough spoke in support of Honeycutt's report. However, Commissioners Don Miller and Austin Shaver took issue with a lot of the facts and figures Honeycutt used in his presentation. Most notably was the discussion that the system has added as many new teachers and assistances over the last few years as they have new students.

At the end of the forty-five minute presentation and the following discussions, it didn't seem that either side had changed any minds but with the new budget process already underway for both commission and the school board, I'm sure we're going to hear a lot more about the subject.

Loudon schools' spending lags

By Hugh G. Willett Knoxville News Sentinel
LOUDON - Loudon County needs to increase school spending by at least $1.5 million per year just to keep pace with average per pupil expenditures across the state, according to a report presented to officials Monday.

Schools Director Wayne Honeycutt provided county commissioners a detailed cost analysis of the school budget, including comparisons with other school districts.

In August the commission requested an explanation of why the school operating budget had increased from $26.9 million to $37.7 million between 2003 and 2008.

Fixed costs increased tremendously during the 2003-09 time frames, including an increase of $1.2 million for medical insurance alone. Retirement and utility costs were among the other large increases, Honeycutt said. Personnel costs rose by an average of $560 per employee per year.

Honeycutt said that the balance between money spent on schools and money spent on other government functions has been stable.

Revenue from the state has been frozen because of the BEP formula, which is based on the notion that Loudon is one of the more wealthy counties in the state.

At the same time as requirements and expectations for student performance have been increasing, county expenditures per pupil have lagged the rest of the state. Loudon's expenditures of $7,887 per pupil are below the state average of $8,773, Honeycutt said.

Figures provided by Commissioner Don Miller indicated the numbers could work both ways - especially when the county was compared with similar-sized school systems. The average cost per pupil in 36 such systems was $7,782, according to Miller's statistics.

Honeycutt also said that lower average salaries for teachers have an effect on student performance, especially in such subjects as math. Retaining good teachers is difficult when the county must compete against surrounding counties that pay teachers more, he said.

"Teaching skill increases with years of experience," he said. "We're losing teachers before they get to the highest level of experience."