Balanced Budget

Well we did it. The Loudon County School Board passed a balanced budget Thursday night. Never mind that board members essentially had no time to read the budget. Board members received the updated budget by email around 4:00 pm Wednesday and were at the table by 7:00 Thursday evening being asked to adopt the $37,000,000.00 + budget. Even though several board members admitted they hadn't had an opportunity to look at the new budget, a majority of the board voted to approve it.

Now we will have time to see what we voted for.   

Loudon schools cut $800K

Board follows mandate to bring in balanced budget

Hugh Willett
LOUDON - The Loudon County school board cut its 2009-10 budget by about $800,000 Thursday night following a county commission mandate earlier this week that required school officials to bring in a balanced budget.

The board voted 6-3 to adopt a series of cuts recommended by Director of Schools Wayne Honeycutt that would bring the budget in at just over $37 million, the same as the 2008-09 budget.

The primary cuts included eliminating a 2 percent raise for teachers as well as raises for assistant principals and several supervisors. Savings in medical insurance premiums of almost $90,000 were realized by estimating a 4 percent increase instead of the original 10 percent increase.

Elimination of raises for teachers turned out to provide greater savings than had been projected. Under the original estimates, eliminating a 2 percent raise for teachers was expected to save the school system about $384,000. The actual cuts amounted to $651,802.

Board members Van Shaver and Lisa Russell made an effort to postpone a vote on the cuts until a workshop next week so that they could have time to study the budget in more detail. Shaver said he wanted to compare this year's estimates to last year's actual expenditures to see if closer estimates might help trim the budget more.

"There are tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars that we can cut," he said.

A motion by Shaver to defer the vote on the budget was defeated 5-4, with Shaver, Russell, Bobby Johnson Jr. and Craig Simon voting to defer. Johnson said he could be persuaded to vote for the director's recommendations with the exception of allowing raises for several supervisors.

Honeycutt said he would recommend against providing raises for selected employees when the county commission had clearly showed that it was against raises for any county employees.

Board member Bill Marcus suggested that the board go with the director's recommended cuts because they "spread the pain" more evenly around the entire system. He was joined by others on the board, including Gary Ubben, Scott Newman, Larry Proaps and Steve Harrelson.

"We're at a standstill," said Newman.

Craig Simon, board member from Tellico Village, decided to break the stalemate by making a motion that the board adopt the director's plan. After a short discussion, the board passed the director's plan, 6-3, with Shaver, Russell and Johnson voting against the plan.