Mary E. Hinds News Herald
attended the Loudon County School Board's Thursday evening
workshop to listen to discussions of the proposed budget for the
2010-2011 school year, which may recommend teachers forego their
annual step salary increase again this year to save money.
The school board's budget committee has been wrestling with ways
to cut the system's operating budget in light of less funding
from local, state and federal governments during the economic
downturn. The system also faces the dilemma of what to put first
- money for raises for school personnel or financing Phase I of
the school building program.
Budget committee member Bill Marcus updated the full board on
the committee's recommendations to slash $1.6 million from the
upcoming budget. The committee had asked for recommendations for
cuts from Director of Loudon County Schools Wayne Honeycutt.
The director reluctantly suggested the elimination of two family
liaison positions and that the remaining ones have their
salaries cut to $22,000 per year; the elimination of the
schools' social worker position; elimination of nine para-pro
positions; to move some salaries to be paid for with stimulus
money thereby removing them from the county school budget this
year; and to eliminate the "double" step raises for teachers
(double because the plan had been to give them a double raise
this year to make up for the one they lost last year).
Marcus also noted there is a plan in the works for the state to
pay all teachers a 3 percent bonus. Board member Gary Ubben said
a bonus was a one time only payment and would not be a part of
the yearly budget. He asked what programs might be cut as well.
Honeycutt said he didn't like the idea of cutting any programs
but he had tried to find cuts that could be made and not "gut
the system." He suggested some ways to use other agencies to
take up some of the slack and said the only program being cut
outright is the criminal justice program at Greenback, which has
Marcus said if these cuts are approved it would leave the budget
approximately $580,000 in the red and it should be sent on to
the county commission to see if they will make up the
Board member Leroy Tate said he didn't like the suggestions and
they would force the system to "lose people and cut programs"
not to mention put the county schools salary schedule - which
took quite a while to get in place- into chaos.
Board member Larry Proaps said the deficit budget should be sent
to the commission. "He should ask for what he needs," Proaps
said of Honeycutt adding that cuts can be made if the budget is
turned down by the commission.
Budget committee member Van Shaver told the teachers in the
audience that no one disputes they deserve a step raise, but the
"reality is there is only so much money" and little chance of
the commission passing a tax increase during this economic
downturn and in an election year. Shaver said that leaves only
the money in the building fund and if the school board asked for
that money for operating expenses the commission would give it
but the building program would be done.
Ubben said that he had run for the school board in order to
"improve the quality of education in Loudon County but it's
going in the opposite direction" with so many cuts to programs
and personnel and the expenditures per student in the county far
below the state average. Ubben added, "We've got to pay our
teaches more," or risk them leaving as soon as possible or new
teachers refusing to take teaching jobs in the county because of
the low pay, a phenomenon reflected in the constant turnover in
math teachers in the county schools and the subsequent poor math
Board member Steve Harrelson said he agreed the deficit budget
should be sent to the county commission. "We should ask for what
we need," he said.
Board member Bobby
Johnson, Jr. also agreed. Johnson urged the teachers at the
meeting to voice their concerns with the commission and the
mayor as well. "We hear you, be loud about it - let them know
how you feel."
Lisa Russell, who represents Greenback on the school board,
expressed fear that any suggestion of using building fund money
for the operating budget would make it impossible for Greenback
to begin work on a desperately needed new facility. She noted
the problems with the building have already led to Greenback
students losing instructional time and she was wary of anything
that might derail or delay the new school being built.
Ubben said everyone agrees Greenback School needs help but by
failing to support teachers and programs the buildings won't
matter. Russell said she felt most teachers had gone in teaching
for a "love of children" and most parents and teachers would be
willing to sacrifice - higher taxes and pay raises - in the best
interest of the building program.
The board is set to vote on proposed budget cuts at their next
board meeting, April 8 at the Courthouse Annex in Loudon.