Committee to take look at school budget

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By Damon Lawrence

Roane County Board of Education’s plan to fix its financial problems for the 2013-14 school year is not a done deal.
The Roane County Commission, the funding body for the school system, still needs to approve the plan. That’s not simply a formality.
“There have been amendments in the past year that have not been approved,” Board Member Wade McCullough pointed out at the July school board meeting.
The budget committee, which includes four of the 15 commissioners, will discuss the plan on Wednesday.
“I’m not going to lobby for it or against it,” County Executive/Budget Committee Chairman Ron Woody said. “I’m just going to tell what’s good and bad about the thing.”
The budget committee meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the courthouse in Kingston.
The next commission meeting is scheduled for Aug. 12 at 7 p.m. at the courthouse.
School board members and officials lobbied for a 14-cent increase in the property tax rate that would have generated $1.582 million for the school system, but there was zero support for a tax increase on the commission.
The board responded by making cuts to its budget at the July meeting. Driver’s education and money that had been designated for textbooks were some of the things that got cut.
“This is a temporary fix,” McCullough said.
That means the same financial problems could be facing the school system next year.
“These cuts equal to $1.1 million,” Board Member Mike “Brillo” Miller said. “They’re gone. We won’t have those to make next year because they’re already cut.”
Board Member Everett Massengill said he doesn’t expect commissioners to be more receptive to a tax increase in 2014.
“If we get something next year, I believe it will be very minimal,” he said. “I don’t look for us to get anything like we did this year.”
Next year is an election year. All 15 commission seats and the county executive’s position will be on the ballot.
Woody is advising the public to start preparing their personal budgets now in case there’s a change in county leadership that will support a tax increase for the school system’s financial problems.
“Don’t use $35,” he said. “It’s going to be 10 to 20 percent of whatever your county tax bill is now.”
During discussions this year, Director of Schools Gary Aytes and business manager Eric Harbin said the 14-cent increase would have meant a person with a home assessed at $100,000 would pay $35 more in property taxes.
“Don’t look at that $35,” Woody said. “Take your county tax bill and increase it 10 percent to 20 percent.
“You need to start preparing that that’s going to come out of your budget. Businesses need to do the same thing.”