Loudon school budget still in limbo

By: Brittany Bailey, Reporter WBIR

Loudon County school leaders say they may not have to make the major budget cuts they once thought, but they won't be sure for about a week.

The budget proposed to the county commission cut bus transportation; coaching supplements, which would effectively end the athletic program; school resource officers; and some teaching and nursing positions.

On Monday night, the commission voted on that budget.

Commissioner Harold Duff proposed increasing the tax rate for the schools by seven cents, from 88 cents to 95 cents. But, that motion failed by a 6-to-4 vote.

In the end, the commission approved a budget of about $34 million.

"We're proud to keep the tax rate at $1.84, but we're starving our education to death," said Wayne Gardin, who voted to give the schools more money.

County Commissioner Don Miller voted against the measure, saying the schools will be getting about $1.3 million more from the state this year as part of the BEP funding from the cigarette tax.

"I believe both the school board and the county commission want to have a quality education system, and I think we all realize how important that is, we just have a difference of opinion as to what is a reasonable funding request, a serious difference of opinion, I guess," Miller said.

School leaders were disappointed in the vote. They say they need at least a million dollars more to have what they feel is a base level of educational funding. That million includes $500,000 to make up for a budget shortfall, plus at least another $500,000 to reinstate the busing, athletics and other items they cut.

"It feels to me as if our commission deferred to the state to give us additional revenue when the county wasn't willing to do so," Luttrell said.

Still, after talking with commissioners at the end of the meeting, he has more hope the state money could help. However, he says it all depends on how the district is able to spend it.

If the money is earmarked for certain items, they may have to cut other items to restore bus transportation.

Luttrell says the next things on the chopping block would be teaching positions and programs.

"Bottom line: There is hope that we can reinstate some of these services that have been cut, but it's probably going to be a week or two before we can be certain about that."

Once school and county leaders get official word from the state, they plan to meet to make adjustments to the budget.