Buildings Or Operations
It's All About The Pennies

The long awaited school building program for Loudon County has thus far survived a number of hurdles not the least has been those with a political mind to kill it. However the plan now may very well be facing it's greatest challenge to remain intact.

With the education budget process ongoing, it's obvious that decisions made by the school board could drastically impact or even eliminate the building program. School director, Wayne Honeycutt has presented a budget proposal for 2010-2011 that if passed would eliminate the building program. A majority of the three member budget committee have voted to forward a modified version of the budget to the full school board for discussion at the next workshop. This proposed budget will likely have opposition from many of the school board members for things included and things excluded.

Let me try to explain how everything within the budget process works together. The county's primary source of revenue is the property tax. Currently the property tax rate is $1.58. That's 158 pennies. Each penny has a certain value depending on it's final destination. For instance each penny designated to the county general fund is worth nearly $170,000.00. To the school general fund a lesser value of about $114,000.00 each and to the Rural Debt/School Building Fund about $148,000.00 each. Below is a table showing how many and where the pennies go.

Fund                              Pennies
School General 81
County General Fund 42.98
Rural Debt/School Building Fund 21.21
General Debt Fund 6.5
Highway Department 3.25
Highway Capitol Projects 1.75
General Capitol Projects 1.5
Convenience Centers 0.5
TOTAL -                       158.69

Given the state of the economy and the fact that it's an election year, it's not likely commission will raise taxes this year nor should they. Many people just can't afford any more taxes now. So that means the county will have to live within the revenues currently available, 158 pennies. As you look at the table above, you can see how the pennies are distributed to the various county departments. Of the eight departments only one has an excess of pennies. That's the Rural Debt/School Building Fund. Last year commission put extra pennies in the Rural Debt/School Building Fund in anticipation of the building program.

The director of schools has proposed a new budget that would increase the school operating expenditures by approximately 1.8 million dollars. That would require more than 15 pennies to fund the increase. Deduct the 15 pennies from the Rural Debt/School Building Fund. Building program dead. The director has suggested a number of cuts that could reduce the needed increase to 1.3 million. This would require 9 pennies to be removed from the Rural Debt/School Building Fund. This would require the elimination of the new school in Greenback. The modified budget supported by two of the budget committee members would reduce the new revenue needed for school operations to about $680,000.00. This would require 4.3 pennies to be removed from the Rural Debt/School Building Fund. This would likely eliminate the new school for Greenback.

The school board is at a critical cross roads. If the board increases their operating costs, the building program will be greatly reduced or even eliminated all together. This is what is meant by "making hard decisions." If the board wants any chance of moving ahead with the building program, cuts in the current budget must be made, hard decisions will have to be made, priorities will have to be set.

This is tough stuff with no fast easy answers. Who would have thought a few pennies could be such a big deal.