Loudon County Board of Education will request $2.1 million in new funds from Loudon County Commission for the upcoming 2015-16 school budget.
In a special called meeting Monday, members voted 6-3 to recommend the increase approved by the BOE Budget Committee during the April 9 board meeting.
Board members Bobby Johnson Jr., Scott Newman and Kenny Ridings opposed. Board member Leroy Tate was absent due to personal reasons.
After the meeting, Director of Schools Jason Vance said the $2.1 million would equate to about a 20 cent property tax increase if passed by commission.
“When you consider the fact that we’ve not received new money over the past five years, I think it’s time for a raise in revenues for Loudon County Schools in order to just simply operate,” Vance said, adding rising operating costs have played a part in a budget deficit.
Vance said the request incorporates a 4 percent increase for teachers and teaching assistants to coincide with Gov. Bill Haslam’s recommendation given earlier this year, along with science, technology, engineering and mathematics positions needed to improve American College Testing scores.
During the meeting, Johnson asked Vance to clarify how much money is in the BOE’s fund balance. Some commissioners, he said, were under the impression the BOE had about $8 million.
Vance said there would be $4.6 million in the fund if every penny allocated was spent. If a similar budget occurred next year, the balance would drop to about $3 million.
“We started the year with an audited budget of about $8 million,” Vance said. “All right now, the problem with that is if you’ll recall, you allocated about $500,000 for just maintenance. We’ve spent about $200,000 last year, 300 rolled, and so 300 of that was already allocated and several $100,000 more than that, but $300,000 was allocated, so it already looks like your fund balance is more because it rolled last year as compared to what you actually spent this year.”
Johnson said asking for a $2.1 million increase from commission would be difficult.
“The only difference between 1.6 and 2.1 in my mind was to give the governor’s initiative a 4 percent raise for our teachers because he told us to,” Craig Simon, board member and budget committee chairman, said. “... Now you can say what you want, but if we’re going to continue to try to be competitive with other school districts, we’re just not going to do it until we give these raises.”
Board Member Gary Ubben agreed with Simon, saying the funds were justified to properly operate the school district. He said the board would never receive additional funds if a request was not made. “I think our job is to try to make this a better school district and to improve the quality,” Ubben said.
Newman, who serves as BOE vice chairman, said he thought commission would reject the $2.1 million request.
BOE Chairman Ric Best said there was a chance commission would even reject the $1.6 million request. “Well, I think 1.6 tells them that we understand,” Newman said. “Yeah, we want to give our people our raises but nobody else in the county is getting a raise.”
“That’s not our fault,” Simon said. “We’re doing what the governor’s said.”
Vance said he would try to meet with the county budget committee at some point this week.“I think for sure that what we do here is not going to be the last of it,” Best said.