Only In Government

Only in government could a group of elected officials come together to cut a budget and in the process double it. But that's just exactly what happened at Monday's Loudon County Board Of Education workshop.

As incredible as it sounds, the board met with the goal of cutting another $400,000.00 from their bloated 2008-2009 budget request. But by the time the dust settled, they had added another $400,000.00 to their request. As the board supposedly went through the budget line by line, board members began to add previously cut items back to the budget till they had added the extra 400g to the budget.

The BOE had originally requested 4.6 mil. new dollars for this years budget. County Commission rejected the ridiculous request and in turn offered the board about 1.2 mil. Outgoing director of schools, Edward Headlee, had told the commission last week that the board was within $400,000.00 of the commission's offer and expected after Monday's workshop may get even closer. Well, that didn't work out.

The BOE is expected to submit their new request of $2,000,000.00 to the commission for approval. Thus far, commissioners, rightfully so. have been unwilling to bend over for the board. Board members have tried every trick in the book to bring pressure on the commission but have so far been unsuccessful in their arm twisting efforts.

The next county commission workshop is scheduled for June 16th, 6:00 pm, when budget matters will be discussed. Who will blink first? article

Loudon school board indecisive on budget cuts

Hugh G. Willett,

The Loudon County School Board may be forced to choose between teachers or textbooks to balance a projected $700,000 shortfall in the 2008-2009 budget.

As of last week, the board had reportedly eliminated more than $2 million in line-item expenses, including as many as a dozen positions, technology funds, even the school board's salary, coming within $400,000 of balancing the budget. The Loudon County Commission has authorized a $36.4 million budget for the school board.

After a series of budget workshops to reduce the deficit even more, however, the board found itself moving in the other direction, removing controversial cuts in an attempt to protect teaching positions and teachers' raises.

Assuming the more than $2 million in line items listed for removal are approved by the board at its regular meeting tonight, the board plans to present a budget to the county commission on Monday that is about $700,000 short of being balanced.

One of the biggest turnarounds in the budget debate has been the issue of raises for all licensed and nonlicensed teaching staff. After first agreeing to eliminate about $450,000 for a 2 percent pay increase, the board reversed itself, deciding to ask the county commission to approve a 1 percent raise.

"I won't vote for a budget with no pay raise for teachers," said board member Bill Marcus. "I don't think it's fair that other county employees get a pay raise. Teachers are county employees, too."

Another major issue under discussion is the choice of whether to cut a $380,000 line item budgeted for social studies textbooks or to eliminate the line item and buy the books later using emergency funds. The board has also discussed asking parents to buy the $65 books and donate them to the school.

Other line-item cuts, including $160,000 for nine half-time positions described as family liaisons, came under scrutiny at the workshop earlier this week.

Board members questioned whether it was better to cut textbooks or staff positions.

"We need the textbooks," said board member June Klinestiver.

Board member Scott Newman said he thought he was hearing two different stories from board members and some principals in the audience. "First I heard you say you needed the textbooks more, then it seemed like you were saying the teachers were more important."

Newman pointed out that the board was meeting to cut items from the budget but seemed to be making arguments against all the proposed cuts.

Retiring schools superintendant Edward Headlee said he had been given the impression that some on the board and the county commission wanted to see cuts made at the central office. "They want the central office to bleed," Headlee said.

Such symbolic sacrifices will be necessary to make sure the county commission believes the school department has made an honest effort to cut spending, Headlee said.

Assistant Superintendant of Schools Gil Luttrell said he was concerned that the extent of the budget cuts would leave a shell of a school department for incoming superintendant Wayne Honeycutt.

"We have to keep the infrastructure solid or things are going to fall apart," he said.