Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

April 30, 2014

Bus bill saves school system $$

CROSSVILLE — The Cumberland County Board of Education received a little help with it's preliminary 2014-'15 budget from the Tennessee General Assembly, which approved a bill to extend the life of school buses.

That will save the county money in the next budget by reducing the number of buses needing to be purchased from five to two, saving $427,000 in the cost of buses. The budget was increased by $45,000 for vehicle parts.

There are four buses we did not sell at the beginning of the year,” explained Bob Scarbrough, chief financial officer, during a budget work session Thursday night. “One would need considerable work to be extended much further. The other three we plan on using. They're in good shape.”

The bill approved by the state legislature extends the use of school buses to 400,000 miles. Currently, buses must be retired when they hit 200,000 miles or 17 years.

The school system also learned there will be no increase in medical insurance premiums.  However, the school system will need additional funding from the county, above the required minimum match, to qualify for teacher salary equity funds offered by the state.

"We still may not get that,” said Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative.

The state is offering one-time funds of $192,420; however, the county must provide local matching funds of $161,521 to receive the state funds. The funds are to be earmarked for personal pay, not new positions or to pay for employee benefits.

We're looking at it as a one-time bonus,” explained Director of Schools Donald Andrews. “My understanding is they [the state] are not going to continue that after this year.”

The preliminary budget did include the salary equity funds, as well as $150,000 in strategic compensation, required by the state in this budget to compensate teachers for taking on additional roles in the school system. The budget also includes step raises and longevity pay for employees, but the county has modified its step-raises pertaining to those teachers who have completed academic coursework beyond a masters degree, with step raises for those with 10, 20 and 30 semester hours of additional coursework. No teacher will have their pay reduced, explained Susan Huneycutt, assistant director of human resources and administration.

The budget also includes $381,042 for technology replacements and $433,617 in new textbook purchases. It is unclear if the school system will need the $433,617 for textbooks, however, after a motion to adopt the new social studies textbooks for grades kindergarten through 12th grade failed during the regular meeting which followed the budget work session.

The budget estimates expenditures of $51.1 million, about $3.2 million more than estimated revenues, including a budgeted increase in the local required match. The school system proposes drawing $2.6 million from its fund balance, keeping only 3 percent of budgeted expenditures, $1.5 million. That would leave a shortfall of $564,999.

Our proposal to you is to allow us to move forward and present this budget to the county commission May 21,” Andrews told the board.

Board members were not ready to approve the budget, however.

Jim Blalock, 8th District representative, said, “I won't be voting for this tonight.”

He questioned why no funds were budgeted for maintenance at schools, such as a new roof at South Cumberland and repair of mortar at South Cumberland and North Cumberland Elementary.

We have roofs leaking and mortar falling out,” Blalock said. “Every year we take money out of maintenance. We have got to take care of our buildings. We can't afford not to.”

The BOE will meet again Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at the Central Service office to review and discuss the general purpose school budget.

The board did approve the school nutrition program budget during its regular monthly meeting. The $4.5 million budget includes a required increase in the cost of school lunches, raising student meal prices by 10 cents. Student prices will now be $1.90 at the elementary schools and $2.25 at high schools. Adult prices increase, as well, by 15 cents. The increase is required as part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Josh Stone, 4th District representative, moved to approve the lunch price increases, which was unanimously approved.

Stone later moved to approve the school nutrition budget, supported by Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative. The motion was unanimously approved.

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