Cut, Cut, Cut

Up $12,000,000 in five years. That's just hard to explain. But that's just about how much the Loudon County Board Of Education's spending has increased. That's a 45% increase for a total budget of more than $38,000,000.00. During this same five year period, the board has also added 158 new teachers and assistants. (104 teachers, 54 assistants). During the same five year period, the system has added only about 150 students to their enrollment. 

While it's true that certain state and federal mandates have required some increases and there are always certain annual increases, it's still hard to explain twelve million. The board must start looking for ways to reduce spending. With that in mind, at the budget meeting I put forward several recommendations that could at least start the process of reducing costs without negatively impacting education.

  • Institute a hiring freeze on any additional employees.
  •  Eliminate the volunteer Pre K program, An income based social program that has not worked. This is a 900k per year program that has been proven to have no lasting impact on the kids. It also displaces and reduces funding for older children.
  •  Eliminate the Coordinated Health Program. Another social program that has no value to the school system.
  •   Eliminate the Family Resource Center. Yet another social program that I'm sure the recipients enjoy but has little to do with education.
  • Reduce the number of paraprofessionals, formerly known as teacher assistants.
  • Eliminate the school sponsored daycares.
  • Drastically reduce funds for employee travel. Allow reimbursement only for mandatory travel. 08-09 budget included $105,000.00 for travel.
  • Reduce communication costs. 08-09 budget included $150,000.00 for communication. Seems high for nine schools and one central office.

I'm sure there are other areas that could be examined and hopefully other board members will have other suggestions. Schools need to get back to education and eliminate all the liberal social program that have proven to be of no value to education. 

County schools in the red
Mary E. Hinds News Herald
The Loudon County Board of Education moved a little closer to a budget to present the county commission last Thursday night at the monthly workshop. 

As the preliminary budget continues to be trimmed, school administrators informed the board they were proposing more cuts that would put the system within $278,856 of the goal of a balanced budget. 

From a total estimated budget of $37,709,818 the system's budget for 2009-2010 was still $634,688 over budget. The largest item among the newly suggested cuts is the proposal to take $390,000 budgeted for textbooks out and have books bought with the system's reserve funds. 

Director of Loudon County Schools Wayne Honeycutt cautioned board members the numbers could still change once the system finds out how much money will be forthcoming from the state and from the federal stimulus money. 

He also told the board the recent decision to stop giving each school funds for supplies which has resulted in questions from state auditors for years would mean there would need to be a new administrative assistant to handle the purchasing orders to be funneled to the county purchasing department.

"For us to be able to handle it, we must have another person," Honeycutt told the board. He also said a special education position had been funded through the central office budget and by moving that position to the special education department the new position for purchasing management should not increase the central office budget. 

Business Manager Bennie Sims said the current budget proposal would mean a two percent raise for all school personnel next year. Honeycutt said the system needs to address inequities in the system that put pay for some principal positions lower tham the pay for teachers in neighboring systems. Board member Gary Ubben agreed saying he had spoken to four of his former students at the University of Tennessee and none were interested in an administrative position in Loudon County because they are "making more as a teacher or assistant principal" in their current system. 

Board member Van Shaver said he could not support any hiring in the system at any level. "I feel we have an enormous problem in our school system with spending."

He said he had examined past growth in the system's budget and enrollment for the past five years finding the budget has increased by $12 million in that time span. He said during the same time frame the system enrollment was up by only 150 to 200 students. Shaver said despite that the system was still a quarter of a million over last year's budget. 

"We've got to start finding places to cut," Shaver said noting the system was likely to get less income from investments and no increase in Basic Education Funds (BEP) from the state due to lower sales tax collections. 

Ubben reminded the board a lot of the increase in the budget in recent years is due to unfunded mandates from the state and the federal government. He also told the board Loudon County spends only 85 percent of the state average per pupil while the county is ranked sixth in wealth across the state.

"We're a very wealthy county but we've not elected to spend it on education," Ubben said. 

Board Chairman Leroy Tate said while cutting spending was fine, "saving money is not necessarily what's needed to educate kids."