Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

June 23, 2014

BOE holds special meeting to consider funding offer

CROSSVILLE — The Cumberland County Board of Education scheduled a special-called meeting for Thursday evening to discuss and review its 2014-'15 budget again after the county's budget committee approved a funding figure of $16,800,769 for the school system.

The BOE is requesting a funding figure of $17,036,082 from the county. The Basic Education Program (BEP) state-required funding match from the county is $16,744,000.

"I still see some wiggle room in this budget that you can find if you go back and look at your actual numbers," Mike Harvel, 7th District commissioner said.

At first, Harvel made a motion to fund the BOE at the minimum required match of $16,744,000. It was supported by Dave Hassler, 3rd District commissioner, but the motion failed, with only Harvel and Hassler voting in favor.

"With the increase you're wanting, we're roughly going to have to come up with $900,000 or $1 million. Have you changed any of the numbers to actuals instead of budgeted?" Harvel asked.

Bob Scarbrough, BOE chief financial officer, said no they hadn't changed them because the school board has not met in the meantime since last week.

"I have got those numbers and we can look back through," Scarbrough said.

"If you check the actual numbers when going through each line, I know we have in the past when working on our budget, we have found some wiggle room and the projections have not come in as high. We were able to save some money that way. I'm wondering if you had the opportunity to do that if it would help?" Jan McNeil, 5th District commissioner, said.

Carmin Lynch, 9th District commissioner, pointed out a few lines in the budget that had zero revenue budgeted for this year in the revenue side, where the BOE should obtain some revenue funds.

"You've got other things that come in from the state as revenue, but you're reflecting them as zero now. Education of the handicapped and here, this year it's reflecting zero," Lynch said.

"Those funds came in about mid-year. We were unsure when they would come in," Scarbrough said.

Cumberland County Finance Director Nathan Brock reported a growth of $306,164 in total property tax revenue above last fiscal year's rate, according to the equalization board's appraisal.

Brock said, "It's important for everyone to grasp the impact of the budget that is presented to you. Based on my comparison from last year to this year, you're looking at over $1 million of funds that Cumberland County will have to come up with if the budget that is presented tonight is approved as is. You do have a growth in property tax and sales tax. To move forward on from the budget committee you should address the committee's willingness to fund that increase."

Cumberland County Director of Schools Donald Andrews said, "Or give us a number to work with. We've asked for what we have based on what our needs are, but I respect the commissioners."

Sabine said, "We need a $150,000 minimum over last year's funds at $16,744,000. It would be appropriate if we can agree on number so we can try to vote tonight on whatever that figure is."

Nancy Hyder, 5th District commissioner, pointed out the biggest increase in the BOE budget was the textbooks to more than $500,000. "Teachers are using books that are over 18 years old. That's a disgrace," Hyder said.

Lynch suggested calculating the growth number and property tax growth number and use that figure.

Harvel then made a motion to fund the BOE at $16,800,000. Hassler supported the motion.

Harvel arrived at the figure by going with last year's funding of $16,594,000 and adding the increase of local option sales tax and property tax growth money of $206,769.

It was approved in a 5-3 vote.

Since it is below what the BOE requested, Andrews will have to go back to the BOE in order for them to approve or respond, or re-examine their budget.

Andrews said, "With all due respect, I feel like we're being delayed by going back to the board over how much more money. I would respectfully request you reconsider. We have a lot of serious issues. We have worked hard on this budget since October. I said last year we would be asking for more this year. At least reconsider ... Give us a fighting chance for what we need to do in the school system. I feel like we're being delayed to go back to the board for such a small amount of money."

Sabine asked, "Does anyone wish to reconsider?"

There were no responses.

Harvel said, "I say go back and look at lines and you can find revenue somewhere."

Andrews said, "I don't know where we can go back and look and find anywhere else to cut."

Harvel said, "If you look at actual numbers, you can find it."

Lynch said, "If you just look at the two revenue items I pointed out you could add $300,000 and not cut anything."

Lynch asked if there was a way to gradually buy textbooks for certain grades and not others.

BOE officials said no because all of the changes in requirements are implemented at one time K-12.

Voting in favor of funding the BOE at $16,800,000 were commissioners Hassler, Allen Foster, 4th District; McNeil, Terry Carter, 6th District; and Harvel.

Voting against funding the BOE at $16,800,000 were commissioners Sabine, Hyder and John Kinnunen, 9th District.

As of press time Thursday, the BOE was scheduled to meet for a special-called meeting Thursday night at 5 p.m. to address the budget in preparation for meeting with the county budget committee again Monday night.

The Cumberland County Budget Committee and BOE will continue their budget talks next week on Monday, June 23, at 4:30 p.m. in the small meeting room of the Cumberland County Courthouse. The public is welcome to attend.

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