Aug. 6 – After months of planning, requesting and number crunching, Schools Superintendent Jack Parton and the School Board were left little choice: $3.7 million had to be trimmed from the budget. Lowered figures for sales tax income had the county school system looking at a deficit just over $3 million when word arrived in June that the state government was placing the system on stability. Stability is the state’s definition used to tell a local system that the state believes the county can afford to pay a greater share of school costs. The result was a cut of over $900,000 that was scaled back through the program to $711,000 in cuts of state money from what had been indicated in April. The County Budget Committee had agreed at the mid-July budget meeting to take the first $100,000 in revenue above expectations and send that to the school system. Commissioners asked Dr. Parton if the money would be enough, Parton replied, “It’s never enough, but we’ll make do.” At a budget meeting called by the chairman Ben Clabo Friday afternoon for 7 p.m. Monday night, clarification was given to the members. County Mayor Larry Waters had been informed that such a transfer, between two designated funds (the General and Schools) may not be possible under a Tennessee Supreme Court ruling. The motion was not part of the budget approved Monday night, as the funds are unbudgeted. It was also clarified that the money would be above the bottom line, not taken from every revenue source if it was running above expectations. School Finance Director Karen King, indicated more cuts may have to be made later in the year, depending on how revenue figures looked. Some money was saved by not refilling some vacant positions opened up through retirement. Several requested new teaching positions were dropped as well to make budget room. Several proposed programs were also cut away until funding can be found. The biggest of these was raising the amount each student received in supplies. The amount was to double to $30 from its current $15 per student. The current figure is 1/6th the state average and 1/8 the national average. Other items cut included an incentive payment of $50 given to bus drivers who drive the entire school year. The program has saved administrative work by encouraging drivers to complete the entire school year. Also cut was a mold study of the schools. Mold problems found at Seymour Primary required lots of work in carpet removal, wall removal, and HVAC work. Capital improvements to some schools classrooms and the addition of more restrooms to some schools that have had classrooms added will be put on hold this year. More than a million dollars in planned capital improvements have been put on hold. The working numbers that will change as actual sales and property tax revenues come in over the year are a total school budget of $78.5 million plus a reserve fun of two million that is required by state law. The schools have been forced to use five million dollars of their saved surpluses to balance the budget, leaving the fund at the state required minimum of 3%.

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