Loudon County commissioners approved sending a letter
to Director of Schools Wayne Honeycutt Monday, asking for a detailed
analysis of the cost increases in the Schools Board's operating
budget for the past five to seven years.
Commissioner Don Miller said he drafted the letter after becoming
concerned the continued increase in cost to run the school system
would hurt the county's chances of funding phase one of the building
program, and would create a need for a higher tax increase in the
"From 2003/04 to 2008/09 (the period for which audit is available),
school operating expenses (Fund 141) have increased from $26 million
to $37 million," the letter states. "This is an increase of $10.8
million or 40 percent. This works out to an average of over $2.2
million per year in each and every year, or an increase of 8.1
percent per year."
The letter goes on to say from 2003 to 2010 there was in increase in
staff of 163 teachers and assistants but only a small increase in
"I want an explanation at this point," Miller said. "If it's all
The county commission funds the school board with a lump sum amount
each year, but has no authority to line-item the board's budget. The
school board members decide how to allocate the money provided.
In the recent budget, the county commission approved an additional
about $1 million to the schools for operating expenses. Miller was
among the minority who voted against the increase, saying the money
could be used to secure more funding for Phase One of the school
If the building program is going to be successful, Miller said he
believes a tax increase will be necessary next summer.
Miller presented a handout to his fellow commissioners at a recent
workshop which gave estimates for the amount of a tax increase that
will be necessary to fund the first phase, which includes a new
cafeteria in Philadelphia and combining Fort Loudoun Middle and
Loudon Elementary at a cost of about $18 million and a new school in
Greenback at an estimated cost of $29 to $32 million.
In it he said the county currently has enough money available to
secure an $11 million loan. A tax increase of 3 cents would allow
another $7 million to be borrowed for the schools in Loudon and
Philadelphia. To fund the school in Greenback, an increase of 13 to
15 cents is necessary for a total increase of 16 to 18 cents.
He also said the county needs to start replenishing its general fund
balance at a tax increase of another 4 cents, and if school
operating expenses continue to increase at the current rate, another
8 cents will be necessary, for a total tax increase of 28 to 30
cents next year.
Miller said he hopes the community will support the building program
and the necessary tax increase to fund it next year. "I was really
sorry that the commission voted for the $1 million (school budget
increase)," he said.
Miller said if the schools can secure funding through a tax
increase, Phase One of the building program could be completed in
the next three years.