Budget Details

As I reported last week, the Loudon County School Board passed a balanced budget on it's first try and a few board members weren't very happy with it. Newly appointed director, Jason Vance, presented his version of the budget which still had a deficit of about $200,000.00. Vance had already cut nearly $630,000.00 from last years budget. Unfortunately, most of those savings were eaten up by raises.

Newly elected governor Haslem had asked for and passed a state budget that mandated a 1.6% raise for all teachers. Haslem's mandate cost the school board more than a half million dollars in pay raises.

There were some notable cuts recommended by Mr. Vance that were adopted by the board. The adopted budget cut $96,000.00 of local funding for the voluntary Pre-K program. That reduces the local funding for the voluntary Pre-K program to around $35,000.00. That's a great start. Maybe next year we can get it down to zero local funding or maybe eliminate Pre-K all together.

Through one position elimination and a change where funding would be come from, Mr. Vance reduced local funding for the Family Resource Center to within state funding.

The most controversial cut of the night was not from a director recommendation but was an amendment to the budget passed by a majority of the board. A program consisting of seven individuals know as Intervention Specialist was eliminated at a cost savings of more than $150,000.00. The program had been under scrutiny for several years by some board members. Administrators had had trouble in the past giving  a clear explanation of the program. Most of the employees were retired educators working under a 100 day contract.

Pryor to last year, there had been nine employees in the program with a total cost to the county of nearly a quarter million dollars. Previously they were known as family liaisons. However, last year, the board cut the program to 7 employees with a combined payroll of $154,000.00. This year the board eliminated the entire program.

In protest of the elimination of the Family Liaisons/Intervention Specialists, board members Bill Marcus, Ric Best, Gary Ubben and Leroy Tate voted against the budget however the other six board members voted for and passed the balanced budget.

Board of Education eliminates intervention specialists

Elizabeth Trexler-News-Herald

The Loudon County Board of Education passed a balanced budget Thursday night at the County Offices.

However, in order to do so, they eliminated the intervention specialist position, meaning several people lost their jobs.

Kim McGimsey, instructional support supervisor, pointed out a problem with this: These seven people had already received letters stating they would be employed with the school system next year.
"Those teachers, if they're tenured, have to be placed somewhere else," board member Ric Best said.

But Best's main concern was for the children. "We eliminated a program that addressed the needs of the at-risk students," he said. "That (the intervention program) was one of the primary positive things that the board has done to address the needs of our at-risk students.

"Their test scores are part of our overall test scores, it was an effort to raise our test scores," he said.

Best was one of the four who did not vote in favor of eliminating the intervention specialists. The other three were Bill Marcus, Leroy Tate and Gary Ubben. Those are the same four who voted against the budget after the amendment was made.

"We essentially balanced the budget at the expense of our academically at-risk students," Best said.

"Where is all this opposition to intervention specialist," Marcus asked. It was decided last year that Highland Park Elementary and Steekee Elementary would share an intervention specialist, so each school was visited 50 days, while every other school in the district had 100 days with a specialist.

McGimsey explained to the board what the intervention specialists do. They test every student in grades first through eighth three times a year in reading, writing, speech and behavior. She emphasized that these tests will now fall back on someone else.

The intervention specialist would meet as a team with the teachers and parents and discuss those students who were falling behind and formulate a plan to help those students succeed, McGimsey said. Follow-up meetings would be held with the parents and report cards were sent out every three weeks.
"What I fear is going to happen is that we're not going to be able to serve the students," McGimsey said. "We'll have to meet together, as a team, to determine how to handle this."

"We're micromanaging when we need to stay out of it," Tate told the board.

"This is the best budget we've given by far in my tenure," board member Craig Simon said before the vote came down regarding the intervention specialists.

Earlier in the meeting Director of Schools Jason Vance said it was possible to make a balanced budget, which included raises for the certified and non-certified teachers, using the education jobs money.

The budget, as presented by Vance was around $207,000 in the red he said.

In order to get the budget to where it was before the vote, Vance cut all nine ARRA para pros and cut seven prekindergarten para pros to half-time. About $630,000 in cuts took place, including instructional supply cuts and textbook cuts.