Hamblen County School Board to Hamblen County Commission: We know the county budget is not balanced and the school budget is not balanced, but could we have $50,000 or $60,000 more, please?
The Hamblen County Commission passed all county and school budgets on August 4. The County General Government Fund has a deficit 05-06 budget, the County General Debt Fund has a deficit 05-06 budget, the County Road Department has a deficit 05-06 budget (with each of these departments planning to spend more than it expects to receive in revenues and hoping that revenues will somehow be higher than expected or expenses will be lower than expected.)
The Hamblen County School System also has a deficit 05-06 budget in spite of the fact that it received a total of $3.1 million in new money to spend in 05-06---$1.5 million of which came from a county (Hamblen County) that can't balance its own general government budget and $1.6 million of which came from new state BEP funding.
Now, seven weeks after all budgets were passed, the Hamblen County School System is coming hat in hand to the County Commission to ask for a "donation" of $50,000 or $60,000 for its International School. The International School was announced many months ago with grant funding from the Niswonger Foundation out of Greeneville.
The idea for this "school" is to take the growing ELL (English Language Learners) student population and bus these students from their home schools to a new "school" at Walters State for 1/2 day of instruction and then bus them back to their home schools.
Jefferson Federal Foundation has apparently offered to give the school system $50,000 or $60,000 toward the International School, but there are strings attached to this gift. They say they will only give the money to the school if the City of Morristown provides a matching amount and if the County provides a matching amount. Hence, today's request for a "donation."
I had one person ask why Jefferson Federal didn't challenge other area banks to match its contribution. I was talking to someone else who thought that Jefferson Federal should consider the $1.5 million in new local money that has already been provided to the schools as the county's "match."
What will happen when the time comes to vote on the donation? Who knows?
It was just a little over 3 years ago (May 2002) that voters were persuaded to vote for extending the temporary wheel tax in the infamous "pick your poison" referendum.
Since then, the wheel tax has been made permanent, there have been two recent property tax increases, subdivisions have been added to the county's tax rolls, debt has been refinanced, money has been switched from fund to fund, and a litigation tax has been added. End result of all this new and extended tax revenue and growth: the county still cannot balance its government budget, its road budget, or its general debt budget.
The School Board is doing no better. It can't balance its budget even though it has new state and local money totaling $3.1 million dollars for 05-06.
If you have more and more taxes and revenue and you still cannot balance your budget, that is a spending problem-- a spending problem that is marked by little, or no, fiscal discipline.
With government at all levels, if something sounds good, the vote is do it, buy it, spend, borrow--go in debt, whatever it takes.
It seems like the only people who have to live within their means are the taxpayers.