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

School system has $1.2M budget gap

Without any new operating funds, the Washington County School System will have to make personnel and program cuts that will damage the quality of education, according to school officials.
“For the last two years or more, we have had to continually cut programs and services and personnel costs from our budget, but expenses continue to climb,” said Director of Schools Ron Dykes. “When you add that to a shortfall in revenue, and additional unfunded mandates, we are left with not being able to reduce our budget anymore without it being fairly damaging to the quality of education.”
The board is expected to submit a “budget of need” to the County Commission for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.
Dykes, who discussed the budget with the school board this week at a worksession, said the system is nearly $1.2 million out of balance.
“We absolutely need this to maintain the status quo,” Dykes said.
Sales tax revenue shortfalls have been extreme, with the most recent month’s coming in more than $40,000 under budget.
In addition, expenses keep increasing, despite drastic cuts the system has already made, Dykes said.
“This current year, we’ve already had to cut around $600,000, just in services we could not provide,” he said.
There will be an almost $300,000 increase in salaries for step increases, an amount which is usually covered by growth funds. Those funds are expected to be significantly lower than years before.
In addition, the state mandated and unfunded new programs under the Tennessee Diploma Project require three to four new positions, and textbooks for the new curriculum will cost $517,000.
Retirement and medical insurance increases will cost the system $968,000 just to operate as usual.
Money that the system will receive from the Race to the Top funds is restricted.
Since the opening of the two new county schools, Ridgeview and Grandview, Dykes said he has pleaded for funds to shore up the schools’ budget.
“I keep reminding the finance committee and commission we receive no new operating funds for the schools,” he said. “So to really open those schools, it required approximately 24 new positions, as well as an increase in maintenance for more square footage and more grounds.”
Those dollars came from the existing 12 schools.
“Now those schools are receiving less money so we can operate 14 schools,” Dykes said.
There are still unknowns that the board must know before it can finalize its budget, such as the growth rate, the true value of a penny and the exact sales tax figure to estimate, he said.
“So with those unknowns, until the county government can actually provide figures that are their best estimate, we’ll not be able to move forward,” he said.
But if a budget of need is submitted as expected, the commissioners will be the ones to determine what happens.
“We’ll face that every single year,” Dykes said. “That money is recurring. It’s mostly salaries. The county commission is going to have to figure out dollar amounts.”