Don't Blame Commission

Several times over the past week I was involved in conversations where someone would blame county commission for the fact that teachers and other school employees didn't get raises. This is just factually incorrect.

The Loudon County commission approved a budget for the school board that totaled more than 37.1 million dollars. It was then the school board's decision on how to budget that money. The majority of the board then voted for the budget proposed by the board superintendent which did not include an across the board raise for all employees. Again the majority of the board voted for the proposed budget without giving any consideration to any potential cuts or savings that might have allowed for additional funds for raises.

The problem is simple. We can't have everything. The bigger problem is that if the board doesn't do something in the next six months, most likely there will be no more additional funding to provide for raises again next year. State and local revenues continue to decline in the slow economy and the idea of a tax increase next year, an election year, is not likely. The only place to find the money is in the budget. Cuts will have to be made.

In my opinion, as a school board member, our problem is not a lack of money but poor management of the money we have. It's a known fact that over the last five years, 03-04 to 08-09 the board's expenditures have increased by nearly twelve million dollars. During this same five year period, the board has 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. During the same five year period, commission has passed two different property taxes adding a total of forty cents to the tax rate. Thirty-nine cents of the property tax increase has gone to the schools. I have yet to hear any logical explanation for such high increases.

Aside from the thirty-seven million plus budget, the nine schools collectively received and spent about 2.4 million dollars and as of June 30th, 2009, the nine schools had collectively in their own bank accounts more than $600,000.00. All this above and beyond the budget process.

# Job Annual Costs
10 Board Members $36,240.00
9 Intervention Specialist $241,442.00
135 Paraprofessionals, Teacher Aids  $1,949,029.00
10 School Secretaries $253,820.00
393 Teachers $15,815,487.00
5 IT Personal $199,218.00
15 Central Office Staff $773,345.00
3 Custodians $79,094.00
2 Vocational Administration $80,085.00
5 School Health/Family Resource $169,942.00
9 Principals $557,679.00
4 Psychologist $184,444.00
9  School Nurses $176,612.00
3 Assistants $47,875.00
69 Food Service $753,480.00
681   $21,317,792.00

As you can see from the chart above, we have a large education family and until the school board, not county commission, gets serious about really developing a practical budget these people will continue to come up short.