By MARINA WATERS
It was back to the drawing board for the Washington County Board of Education to revise its budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The board’s budget revision was spurred after the county’s budget committee requested the board rework its budget and reduce the $1.8 million out-of-balance amount.
During the Wednesday, May 15, meeting to revise the budget, the board opted to keep a two percent raise for all employees, but managed to cut its out-of-balance amount by $800,000. The new budget passed in a 4-3 vote. Board members Keith Ervin, Phillip McLain, Todd Ganger and Annette Buchanan were in favor. Mary Beth Dellinger, Chad Fleenor and Jason Day were opposed. Mitch Meredith was absent.
“The commission asked us ‘to work on it’,” Director of Washington County Schools Bill Flanary said. “There was no mandate to balance a budget. That’s where we are with the county commission.”
Washington County Schools Finance Director Brad Hale said part of the board’s budget challenge has been an increase in expenses and a decrease in revenue. Part of that revenue has been lost, he said, due to declining student enrollment in the Washington County School System.
Between fiscal year 2017 and 2018, the district lost 100 students. At the high end of the spectrum, David Crockett High School lost 54 students, West View Elementary School lost 40 and Jonesborough Elementary loss 33. Meanwhile, Ridgeview Elementary School gained 42, Boones Creek Middle School gained 16, University School gained 12 and Jonesborough Middle School gained 12. The total estimated negative funding impact through the decline in enrollment was $473,142.
“That’s the crunch,” Hale said to the board after presenting enrollment figures. “That’s the big reason we’re getting into situations where our expenses are going up more than our revenue each year. It’s a big part of it. If we had another $473,000, our gap would be a lot smaller than where it is right now. That’s a full one percent raise.”
To combat the loss of revenue, the board opted to cut out most of its “wish list” items such as vans, system vehicle needs, coaching supplements, and a third-party substitute teacher scheduling program among other items.
In addition to must-have items such as step increases, retirement contribution increases and University School revenue sharing, the board voted to keep half of the cost of text books ($250,000), and a technology tech ($50,000). The board also kept one assistant principal at Jonesborough’s elementary and middle schools and a career and technical education position, both of which were budget neutral.
The board also approved a pay scale adjustment for food service employees.
Food Service Director Caitlin Shew requested a 10 percent pay scale adjustment. The board opted to fund a five percent pay scale adjustment with in a 6-2 vote. Ganger, Hammond, Dellinger, Buchanan, McLain and Day were in favor. Fleenor and Ervin were opposed.
“We’ve cut our costs in many different ways and we want to invest this money back into our employees,” Shew said. “So that’s what we’re asking you all to let us do.”
The employees also fall under the two percent raise umbrella included in the board’s current budget. However, Shew and some board members said they felt the five percent pay scale increase was less of a raise and more of an adjustment.
“It’s not, in my opinion, a raise,” Shew said. “We’ve adjusted pay scales to get in line with competing systems. That’s what we’re asking for, not necessarily a raise, but to get our pay scale in more of a competing fashion.”
The board asked that Shew return to request another five percent adjustment during next year’s budget season.