BOE mulls new budget
Jeremy Nash
The Loudon County Board of Education unanimously agreed Thursday night to table approval of the 2015-16 fiscal year budget until the May meeting in order to give board members a better understanding of what basic education program funds the district will receive from the state and come to a consensus on how the board plans to address teacher salaries.
Initially, board member Craig Simon, who also serves on the school board’s budget committee, made a motion to allow Director of Schools Jason Vance to make a request for $2.1 million from Loudon County Commission, which included the $1.6 million needed for operational costs and the remainder for teacher salaries via a 2 percent increase and a 20-year compressed pay schedule.
After the meeting, Assistant Director of Schools Mike Garren said the 20-year compressed scheduled would amount to about $860,000. About half of that total will come from the state, and Vance said a dollar figure for BEP funding would not be available until later this month.
“I know where we’re trying to get with the condensed schedule,” Leroy Tate, board member, said. “In all honesty I don’t know. I don’t think we can get that through commission right now because they need to get — it’s a fairly new commission, and they need to get their feet wet on all the other budgets countywide and to be realistic, I don’t think we can get that through right now.
“I think what we can do is do the 1.6 (million dollars) and then that gives us another year,” he added. “I want to do the condensed pay scale, but we need another year to work with the commissioners and try to get to sell them on this to see where we’re going.”
BOE Vice Chairman Scott Newman said he would prefer the board hold off on an approval until Vance had the opportunity to talk to commissioners in more detail about the compressed schedule for teachers.
Board member Jeremy Buckles said the board needed to come up with a “concrete, hard, itemized budget” to bring before commissioners.
“I feel like there’s a lot of confusion up here, honestly,” Buckles said. “I think there’s a lot of confusion on exactly what we’re voting on. We don’t have the paper here with the line items and everything that we normally have. I feel that we would be better prepared to have that information to be able to vote on that information and actually send something like that to commission.”
Chairman Ric Best said the school board had in the past been criticized for untimely budget presentations to commission.
“I know in the past that they’ve beat us up because we didn’t get our budget done during a timely manner, but we’re waiting on a bunch (of) stuff where they can go ahead and approve their budgets that they’ve got in,” Bobby Johnson Jr., board member, said. “We’re waiting on a bunch of stuff to get real numbers.”
Board member Gary Ubben said the BOE would be unfair in asking Vance to speak to commissioners and Mayor Rollen “Buddy” Bradshaw if he did not have a better understanding of the board’s wishes.
“We’re kind of putting him out there with no ammunition in that sense,” Ubben said.
Best suggested the board table the decision until the May meeting. Ubben motioned to table the decision, and Simon seconded.
“The message I need to send to County Commission is that we have got about a million dollars in just utilities, medical expenses and transportation increases from five years ago when the last time we received money,” Vance said. “You know, that’s out of our control.
“Additionally, we’re also considering what is going to make our teachers and teacher assistants competitive in regards to surrounding counties,” he added. “So the Board of Education is considering up to a $2.1 million request, and where that number falls will be the Board of Education’s decision.”
In other business, the board:
  • Voted 8-1 in favor of asking County Commission for up to $843,000 from the county’s adequate facilities tax fund to repair the Loudon County Technology Center roof, along with replacing heating, ventilation and air conditioning units. Newman motioned, and Ubben seconded. Tate opposed.
  • Approved budget amendments to funds 141, 142 and 143. Simon motioned, and Johnson seconded.
  • Voted 9-0 in favor of a one-year contract extension for Vance, boosting his annual salary to $126,000 and allotting him $600 per month for travel, not including extended travel outside the county. Johnson motioned to approve the contract, and the measure was approved after a second.