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Commissioner: School spending is out of control

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m Vaughn

The Sumner County Commission has completed another budget and approved another large increase in spending from the School Board. The county commission can only vote to approve or disapprove the school budget. There is not an opportunity to adjust each individual line item. There are some very important reasons why this budget should have not been approved and should have been sent back to the School Board so that they can make some adjustments. The concerns that I saw was that teachers were not treated the same as the county general employees, out of control spending by the school board, the budget was not balanced and the overwhelming concern of a future tax increase.

The Sumner County Commission provided the County General Employees a 3.5% salary increase and the School Board budget only provided a 2% increase for their employees. I believe that teachers and students should come first when determining a budget. It appears that the School Board continues to budget from the top down as opposed to the bottom up. We should make sure that students and teachers have the supplies that they need in the classroom and teacher salaries are properly funded before we add positions in the administration categories of the budget. I am concerned that even though the school budget has dramatically increased over the past three years, the increases have not trickled down to the classroom.

The school budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year was $195,647,575. The years prior to this the budget grew at a rate that corresponded to the growth in population of the schools, except for years that we added a new school to the budget. Since that fiscal year budget, school spending has increased to this year's budget of $244,585,920. That is an increase of $48,928,345 over the past four years. The county cannot maintain an average spending increase of $12 million dollars a year.

It was portrayed during the last Commission meeting that the school budget was a balanced budget. The total revenues for the school budget during upcoming fiscal year have been determined to be $232,545,860 and the total spending has been set at $244,585,920. That is a difference of $12,040,060, which must be taken from the school budget reserves, their savings account. The budget is a reoccurring expense and taking $12 million dollars from the reserves, which is not a reoccurring revenue stream, does not make sense.

Maintenance of effort means that the county must fund schools at a level of at least the same that it was funded in the previous year. That means that we must fund the fiscal year 2018-2019 school budget at a minimum of $244,585,920. If the School Board spends the monies allotted during this year, we must make up the $12 million that was taken from the reserves. The only revenue stream that the County Commission has control of is property tax. That means that the County Commission would be mandated to increase revenue to balance the budget. One penny of the property tax rate equates to about $400,000 in revenue. That means that if we must make up the difference next fiscal year, we must increase the property tax rate by 30 cents. This would take the county property tax rate from $2.50 to $2.80.

When considering the budget for the county, both general and school budgets, we must take into consideration that we are spending taxpayer money. We must fund all aspects of county government at a level that provides the necessary services to the citizens of Sumner County. The level of funding and the taxes that are required should be dictated by those we serve. It is my concern that the citizens that we serve are not aware that the spending increases have not directly benefited the classrooms, we have balanced the budget by tapping into the savings account and there is a very good possibility that a tax increase is looming in the near future.

Year

2014-2015

2015-2016

2016-2018

2017-2018

Budgeted

$213,920,285.00

$215,092,003.00

$234,285,158.00

$244,585,920.00

Increase from previous year

$18,272,710.00

$1,171,718.00

$19,193,155.00

Total Revenues

199,189,898.00

216,017,286.00

$223,764,023.00

$232,545,860.00

Difference Revenue - Budget

$14,730,387.00

$925,283.00

$10,521,135.00

$12,040,060.00

Total increase since 2013

$48,938,345

Approximate necessary tax increase to fund the difference

30 cents

County Commissioner Jim Vaughn serves District 6

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