Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

County budget committee hears plea from schools

The Washington County budget committee heard an impassioned plea from Director of Schools Ron Dykes for more local funds to help shore up the school system’s budget, which is out of balance by a little more than $1.8 million.
Dykes spoke to commissioners and officials at a July 15 meeting, where he officialy presented the budget for the 2010-2011 school year.
He asked the commissioners present for a long-term committment to adequately fund the schools and re-emphasized that Washington County is well below the state’s average per pupil spending. The state currently ranks 48th out of the 50 states in spending on students.
Washington County spends $7,652 per student, and Tennessee’s average is $8,518.
To reach the state of Tennessee’s average, the county would have to spend $866 more on each students, which totals about $7.2 million, Dykes said.
Part of the reason the schools face a large budget shortfall is the two new schools, Grandview and Ridgeview, were opened and operated without any new funds – meaning the same funds used to run the previously existing schools had to be stretched to cover more grounds, teachers, and student needs. Another reason is the drastic falling-off of sales tax as the economy worsened, leaving the school with $1.3 million less over two years in both tax and interest.
Dykes urged commissioners to figure out a way to prevent another sales tax shortfall from shorting county students.
“There’s no financial mechanism to fill that gap,” he said.
He also explained that the schools budget has turned into more than just educating students, and while academics remains the most important, it’s other activities like music and athletics that keep kids coming to school.
“The demands outside simply teaching the curriclum have increased,” Dykes said, adding the schools are responsible for child care, feeding children, health care, social workers and counselors.
School board members Phillip McLain, Keith Ervin and Chad Williams also attended.
The budget meeting was recessed until July 28 at 9 a.m.
The budget committee also voted to delay action until September, after county elections, on a resolution that would increase the minimum benefit for participating commissioners, councils and school board members.
The Tennessee General Assembly enacted the optional minimum benefit increase for elected or appointed officials, and made the increase optional for local governments. The current minimum benefit is either $7 or $8, and options are to increase it to $14 per year of service, or $20 per year of service.
The cost would be very minimal, officials said, since the county only has 14 retirees currently. An official must serve five years to be eligible.