The Cumberland County Board of Education approved its $58.6 million budget Tuesday night, forwarding the general fund budget, school nutrition budget and additional capital requests to the county’s budget committee for action.

“We have not requested any additional fund,” explained Josh Stone, 4th District representative. “However, we do have a list of additional items, one-time monies, that we are requesting.”

The budget calls for $18.6 million in local funding from the county, which is the minimum funding required by the state. That is about $105,000 less than last year’s county funding requirement and is due to a reduction in average daily maintenance. 

State funding comes to $36.27 million, an increase of $757,355 over last year. The budget also calls for using $3.29 million from the school system’s fund balance, leaving about $1.76 million in reserves — the 3% minimum reserve required.

The budget includes a 2.5% salary increase for all school employees. Part of that increase is from savings on insurance premiums following a change in certified employee benefits. 

“That’s a little bit more than what those savings generated, but that was an important point for us,” Chief Financial Officer Kacee Harris said.

The budget does include approximately $750,000 for a renovation project at Martin Elementary through the maintenance budget. The renovation would update bathrooms, replace tile and paint lockers throughout the facility.

It also includes the $650,000 budgeted this year for a roof project at Cumberland County High School. That project will not get started until after the start of the new fiscal year.

The additional capital requests includes $150,000 for work at Stone Memorial High School to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility guidelines, $150,000 to construct a new building for the Transition Academy and $96,000 for an additional bus for the transportation department. 

The school system has received an extension to complete work on sidewalks and ramps at SMHS following an audit of the facility by the Office of Civil Rights. 

Teresa Boston, 8th District representative, asked, “If that’s not an option, why are we not looking at some of the things we are doing at Martin and taking some of that money? Those are optional.”

Stone said the $150,000 is “over and above,” but he said conversations with county commissioners had been receptive toward assisting with that project.

“If that didn’t come to be, then we would have to go to the budget to find at least a part of that $150,000 to come back and do some of those renovations that are more urgent than others,” he said. 

Harris said the school system could piecemeal the SMHS project, but would likely save if it were able to do the project at one time with one contractor. Originally, about $20,000 had been budgeted to do a portion of the project.

Stone said he had not recommended asking the county for the Martin Elementary renovation funds because it was more expensive at $750,000.

Stone said making the request as an additional request outside of the budget allowed the school system to have an approved budget.

“We set it up that way on purpose,” Stone said. “We can go in and re-allocate to do at least parts of that project.”

Stace Karge, 9th District representative, shared a request from the Cumberland County Librarians’ Association for increased funding of about $11,000. That amounts to $1 per student for library books and 50 cents per student for library supplies.

Kim Wattenbarger, chairman of the librarians’ association, explained the funds would help provide updated technology for the student work stations and circulation computers. These computers are often not included in school-wide computer replacements, and some schools do not have fully functional computers to support their book circulation program. 

“We’ve got to find this money,” Karge said. 

Safdie suggested waiting until bids on the CCHS roof project come in and seeing if there might be savings there that could be used for the library request.

Stone moved to approve the budget and the capital outlay request, supported by Rebecca Hamby, 7th District representative. It was unanimously approved.

The board also unanimously approved the school nutrition program budget. The program does not operate on local funds. The bulk of funding comes from federal programs and from meal sales. 

Kathy Hamby, school nutrition director, said there would be no increase in meal prices next year. 

The school system will also continue providing free breakfast and lunch at all Community Eligibility Program-eligible schools: Crab Orchard, Brown, Martin, North Cumberland, Pine View, Pleasant Hill and Stone elementary schools and The Phoenix School. 

The school system was scheduled to present the budget to the budget committee of the Cumberland County Commission Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

Once approved by the budget commission, it must go before the full commission, usually in August. 

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.