Director of Schools Dale Lynch met with county commissioners yesterday to present the school budget.
His budget and his planned presentation were derailed two days before by the action of commission's budget committee on Tuesday, moving 8-cents of the school's property tax revenue to debt service earmarked/reserved for school repairs or building program use.
At the start, Lynch mentioned an e-mail that some unnamed individual had sent him telling him that 8-cents of the school's property tax was taken from the schools and put into debt service. He never said who sent him the e-mail.
Lynch said if the 8-cents is not in the general school budget, then the school budget is now out of balance by about $925,000.
Referring to the sales tax, Lynch said that it "troubles me" that we worked together to pass the sales tax and then to see this re-structuring of the property tax. Later in the meeting, Commissioner Ford clarified that the sales tax is still going to the schools and that 8-cents of property tax is not being taken from the schools but is being put into debt service as a reserve for the schools maintenance and building needs.
Lynch said we were not asking for additional local funding, the only funding over the last three years from this body has been growth money.
Lynch then discussed the new Stimulus Money of $1,366,004 for Title IA with $618,751 to be spent in 09-10 school year; and $747,253 to be spent in 10-11 school year.
Title IID Stimulus Money of $51,957 to be spent in 09-10.
Title X Stimulus Money of $60,319 with $32,319 to be spent in 09-10 and $28,000 to be spent in 10-11
IDEA Stimulus Funds if $2,312,684 to be spent by 9/30/11.
Stancil Ford asked what happens to the new positions funded by stimulus money when that money is gone.
Lynch replied that "In two years those positions will go away." He added that we know that there is no way that the State of Tennessee or local government will pick up these positions. But the equipment we can keep.
Then they started discussing the sales tax revenues again.
Lynch: Not a person here had that discussion with me (using the sales tax money for the building program).
Lynch: We committed to pay $500,000 per year to debt service for 28 years on the last building program (the $35 Million 1998 building program). We will pay $14,000,000 on that $35,000,000 construction. [Dr. Lynch apparently hasn't looked at the county audit for 2008 or he would know that the $6,000,000 that the School Board has paid thus far has not been applied to the $35,000,000 of construction costs. The school board's payments and the county's payments have been used to make interest-only payments. As of 6/30/08 --nearly 10 years after the construction started--the WHOLE $35,000,000 is still owed.]
Lynch: We are proud of East High. It has major problems, but we maintain it. What we haven't done is put a roof on East High. We need a roof and other repairs.
Commissioner Alvis: To me it's a good investment to put a roof on it. It's going to be used.
Lynch: Why would we want to put a roof on the old 1923 building and then tear it down? When we have leaks, we are fixing them. The roof is bad in the whole structure.
Alvis: I know we are going to be using that building longer than we thought.
Commissioner Tommy Massey: We don't know what sales tax [will come in]. Unemployment in Hamblen County is one of the highest in East Tennessee. Other departments in the county have not asked for any raises.
Ricky Bruce, who was not at the last budget meeting, then decided to talk about "cost drivers" for the schools such as electricity, gas, insurance, etc.
Lynch said the schools/taxpayers pay the full health insurance premium (100%) for a teacher with single coverage. Lynch said the schools/taxpayers cover about 70% of the family health insurance premium.
Ricky Bruce made a motion to take 4-cents from the school property tax rate to be put into debt service for school construction and let the schools keep the other 4-cents + all the sales tax money.
Dennis Alvis seconded the motion.
The vote was 2 in favor of this motion (Ricky Bruce and Dennis Alvis).
10 against (Larry Baker, Guy Collins, Stancil Ford, Doyle Fullington, Herbert Harville, Doe Jarvis, Paul Lebel, Tommy Massey, Joe Spoone, and Dana Wampler.
Nancy Phillips and Reece Sexton were absent.
Stancil Ford then asked when the School Board could come back with their revised budget. Dr. Lynch said he'd have to check with the Board. Stancil asked School Board Chairman Janice if the Board come have the revisions by Tuesday, June 2. She said several board members were on vacation.
Of course, Haun was already ticked off as she had earlier asked the commission AGAIN to go on and buy the McCorkle property. She said the option was expiring.
Commissioner Lebel told her that nobody is going to buy that. "It's a rock pile."
Haun said it would be better stewardship of money (to buy the property).
Commissioner Spoone then said that "this county can not afford an $80 Million building program. We need to do what we can do." It may be 5 years or it may be 10 years before we can build.
The meeting adjourned.