By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

mwaters@heraldandtribune.com

The Washington County Board of Education has started the process of reducing their budget deficit figure.

At the BOE’s Tuesday, April 24 meeting, the nine-member board took their budget, which was $6 million out of range, and cut that number down to $2.8 million out of budget after Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge, along with the county’s budget committee, requested at their latest meeting that the school board revise their budget in order to reduce the deficit.

But this new deficit didn’t come without the loss of a few wishes.

The BOE opted to remove what board members called their “wish list” from the budget draft. The list included items such as updated security, Chromebook insurance, incentives for both principals and bus drivers, two band directors and textbooks, among other items.

“It’s possible that those could be added back if cuts are made elsewhere,” Washington County Department of Education Finance Director Brad Hale said. “But for now, that is all pulled out.”

In addition reducing the out-of-budget figure, the board opted to, for now, keep the four percent raise for all employees with the required step increases, as decided at their last budget meeting. They also decided to use $1 million from the board’s fund balance for the coming fiscal year’s budget.

According to Tennessee Code Annotated 49-3-352(c) fund balance dollars can be used to meet budget shortfalls if the fund balance exceeds the revenue amount by three percent of the current fiscal year’s budgeted annual operating expenses.

Though the BOE is permitted to utilize the fund balance dollars, Hale explained that the reserve dollars can require a sort of balancing between fiscal years depending on how much is in the reserve fund and how much is utilized in a budget season.

“As I’ve explained to the board, if we budget to pull from the fund balance, and (needed) expenses materialize when we really have to (use fund balance dollars), then next year we won’t have as much of a fund balance,” Hale said. “We can’t do that next year.”

The school system’s budget will be discussed at the Washington County Health Education and Welfare Committee meeting on Thursday, May 3 at 1 p.m. in  Jonesborough’s Historic Courthouse located at 100 E Main Street.