Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

July 2, 2013

BOE pulls budget

Sabine warns schools not to wait

The Cumberland County Board of Education did not discuss its proposed 2013-'14 budget Thursday, though the item was on the monthly agenda, after several board members said they didn't think the budget was "ready."

That delay has the budget committee of the Cumberland County Commission concerned and considering its options, including the possibility of passing the county's budget and allowing the school system the minimum funding required by law if they don't have a budget in hand "soon."

David Bowman, 7th District representative, asked to remove the budget from the agenda, saying, "I don't feel the budget is ready to be passed."

Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative, had already moved to approve the agenda for the meeting as presented. He said, "I think we need to leave it in there. We've waited long enough."

There was no second to Janeway's motion so it died for lack of support.

Bowman moved to approve the agenda with the budget removed, supported by Sandy Brewer, 3rd District representative.

Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative, asked what Bowman felt was not ready in the budget.

"There are several points I'm unclear on," Bowman said.

Brewer said she wanted to discuss possibly giving teachers a bonus in the coming year, rather than a salary increase. A bonus is a one-time payment and does not increase salaries for the following year. She also wanted to discuss the possibility of funding school resource officers. Bowman said he wanted more exact figures on the fund balance and get the final calculation of the Basic Education Program from the state.

"We've got plenty of time to get the budget to the county budget committee and meet the state requirements," Brewer said.

The county must pass a budget by Oct. 1 in order to continue receiving state funds for operation of the school system.

The board held a work session on its budget June 18. No other work sessions have been scheduled to discuss the budget at this time.

Bowman also noted the board would have a new director of schools, Donald Andrews, and new chief financial officer, Robert Scarbrough, coming on board July 1.

"I feel we need to give Mr. Andrews and Mr. Scarbrough a chance to look it over. They're going to be saddled with this budget," Bowman said.

The motion to remove the budget from the agenda was approved with a 5-4 vote. Voting in favor were Brewer, Bowman, 8th District Representative Jim Blalock, 6th District Representative Vivian Hutson and 4th District Representative Josh Stone. Voting against were Janeway, Schlafer, 1st District Representative Charles Tollett and 5th District Representative Gordon Davis.

Janeway said, "We are dragging our feet. They [the county commission] are waiting on us."

The county's budget committee has completed its work on the county general fund budget and other county budgets. The complete county budget awaits the general purpose schools budget. The school nutrition program budget was unanimously approved Thursday by the BOE.

The delay could mean the county goes forward with its budget process without addressing the school budget.

Harry Sabine, 2nd District commissioner and chairman of the budget committee, said, "In simple terms, I think I can say we are done with our budget process. We simply await the schools."

Sabine said he was sympathetic to the unique position of the school system this year, with a new director and CFO about to take their positions in the school system. However, he urged the school board to start setting meetings and getting prepared to pass its budget in the next few weeks.

"I'm not saying I favor this, but we have the power to give you the minimum the state requires, pass our budget next week and let you live with it. I had hoped you'd adopt tonight, frankly," Sabine said.

Bowman told Sabine, "Our budget isn't ready to be passed. We'll try to have it ready for you next month."

Even if the board had passed its budget Thursday, there would not have been adequate time for the county commission to review and prepare the county budget for consideration at the July 15 monthly commission meeting. After the BOE passes its budget, a public hearing is held. The county commission has then asked the schools to present the budget to the schools and education committee of the county commission, chaired by 9th District Commissioner John Kinnunen. That committee would then consider recommending the budget to the budget committee. The budget committee could approve the schools budget, ask the board to revise its budget request or forward the budget to the full commission for a vote without recommending it.

The county must publish its proposed budget in advance of a public hearing and meeting to consider the budget.

Stone said, "I appreciate the time sensitivity but we're replacing our top two officials. It's unreasonable to stick the new director and CFO with a budget they've had no input on."

"If we don't have your budget in July, I would not guarantee anything," Sabine said. "I'm willing to give you enough time, within reason. I need to know you're doing things. Frankly, you ought to be calling a work session tonight. We just want to see you're making an honest, real push to get this done."

Blalock, who is chairman of the board, said he was not prepared to set any meetings regarding the budget during Thursday's meeting. He said he needed to work with Andrews to set a date for future meetings. Andrews attended the meeting via telephone. He did not comment on possible meeting dates or the proposed budget.

A special-called meeting has been set for July 8 at 5 p.m. at the Central Office to discuss the second reading of policies and the proposed budget.

The proposed school budget calls for revenues of $47.5 million and expenditures of $51.6 million, with an estimated ending fund balance for the 2012-'13 fiscal year of $4.6 million. It includes a proposed three percent pay increase for teachers, changes to longevity pay for noncertified personnel, increased health insurance premiums and minimal capital projects, including a new roof and exterior sealing at North Cumberland. In past years, the school system has used its fund balance to finance building additions at Pine View and Pleasant Hill elementary schools. The proposed budget doesn't address proposed building additions at North Cumberland and Crab Orchard elementary schools, nor does it address a renovation of the Cumberland County High School stadium. Also not included is any funding to support a School Resource Officer program in elementary schools in the county.

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