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."