Commission approves school board budget amendments

News Herald

Loudon County Commission voted to approve amendments in the General Purpose School budget including moving $10,000 in funds from United Way to fund balance to allow the Family Resource Center to use the funds. This is on the heels of the Loudon County School Board’s recent decision to move $10,000 from the school system’s maintenance budget to fund board travel.

Commissioner Don Miller opened the discussion asking Loudon County Schools Budget Manager Bennie Sims to explain exactly what the amendment was designed to do and that the change “has nothing to do with maintenance.” Sims explained the $10,000 for the Family Resource Center was completely separate from the $10,000 moved to the board’s travel budget

Many have expressed discontent when the school board voted last month to transfer $10,000 budgeted for maintenance and use the funds to pay for school board members’ trip to Nashville for Tennessee School Board Association annual meeting this month.

With the school system under constant scrutiny from the state fire marshal’s office and many schools in desperate need of repair, taking funds from the maintenance budget struck many as the wrong move. All this is in light of the school board’s yearly budget battle to get more funds from the county commission. That battle lead to the board cutting more than $1 million, including the money for board travel and pay.

School board member Van Shaver said at last month’s school board meeting that board members should pay their own way if they want to go to Nashville. Board member Lisa Russell agreed saying she could not vote to transfer money from school maintenance to the travel fund especially since the board was trying to find the money to build a new access road at Loudon Elementary School. Van Shaver, Russell and Steve Harrelson voted against moving the funds to the travel budget but it passed none the less.

One of the long standing issues between the county commission and the school board has been how the budget is handled. While the commission can approve or disapprove the bottom line of the county school budget, they do not have the power to change line items in that budget.

At the commission meeting, Commissioner Austin Shaver threw a wrench into the works by expressing doubts about that policy. Shaver, an attorney, said he had researched the statute on line item transfers and the commission does, “have the ability to approve line item transfers.” Miller said he felt the commission should get a legal opinion about that noting the commission cannot “line item the education budget.”

The commission voted to approve the transfer of fund with Shaver and Commissioner Earlena Maples voting in opposition. The motion included a decision to seek a legal opinion on how much the commission can control changes in line items in the education budget.