BY LAUREN HENRY
The recently-passed Greene County property tax increase means an additional estimated $500,000 for Greeneville school funds, which will allow the city school system to operate with a balanced budget.
"We were going to take money [to balance the 2012-2013 city school budget] out of our reserves," said Jerry Anderson, former board chairman. "Now we don't have to."
Thursday night was longtime school board member and former board treasurer Craig Ogle's first meeting as chairman of the Greeneville Board of Education.
The July financial report presented Thursday night at the board of education meeting showed how the local tax increase will benefit city schools as well as county schools.
However, according to Nicole Buchanan, the city school system's chief financial officer, the added money won't actually appear as revenue.
"We effectively have a balanced budget now," Buchanan said.
The 20-cent county property tax increase approved earlier this month by the Greene County Commission designates 15 cents for education.
State law mandates that these funds be split between the local school systems based on average daily attendance.
That division typically equals about 70 percent/30 percent between the county schools and the Greeneville City Schools, respectively.
Anderson said that the city school system will operate on the same budget as that adopted before the Greene County Commission increased the county property tax rate: a step taken primarily to assist the Greene County School System with an anticipated budget deficit.
"We are certainly grateful for these funds, but they will essentially go into the undesignated funds."
According to board member Mark Patterson, the funds received because of the tax increase will give the city school system the opportunity to look at addressing capital needs in the future.
Patterson even mentioned the possibility of hiring more maintenance staff in the future to help with the upkeep of the city school buildings.
"Hopefully this will allow us an opportunity for planning and not continue to simply put a Band-Aid on it," he said.
Buchanan said $500,000 is a conservative estimate considering that the city school system is a fiscal agent for the Greene Technology Center (formerly known as the Greeneville-Greene County Center for Technology.)
The city schools effectively saw $20,000 additional revenue based on increased sales tax money from the same time last year, Buchanan said.
According to Buchanan, who tracks tax spending, July sales tax revenue is up 9.93 percent from the same month last year.
The July budget appeared to show that 50 percent of the budget had been spent. Buchanan explained that this simply reflects encumbered funds for the entire year.
Examples include money set aside for annual contracts for services such as maintenance, operating leases and energy costs.
Overall enrollment in Greeneville schools appears to be up, according to Director of Schools Dr. Linda Stroud, who went over enrollment figures with the board.
"We are pleased, however, that our total enrollment is up this year," Stroud said. As of Tuesday, totals show 12 more students, bringing this year's current enrollment to 2,747 from 2,735 last year.
"That is in fact the highest since the 2007/08 school year," Stroud said.
Elementary enrollment is up by 13 students, middle school enrollment increased by 13 students this year, and the high school decreased enrollment from 859 to 845.
Stroud stressed that the high school enrollment includes the historically smaller sophomore class.
The school system currently has 624 tuition students.
"We have had to turn away some students and put them on waiting lists at specific grade levels in specific schools," Stroud said.
She stressed the fact that the figures are merely preliminary numbers and that enrollment is changing daily.
"In fact, it changed a few since our principals gave these numbers this week," she said.
Stroud said the school system is required to comply with state standards, which keep classes both at an average maximum size and an individual class maximum size.
"We could take them if they were all sophomores," Anderson said regarding tuition students on a waiting list.
Stroud mentioned that the Greeneville High sophomore class is a historically smaller class.
She said it is difficult to admit all of those wishing to attend on tuition basis because of the increase in city resident enrollment.
"We are working very hard to clear all of the waiting lists," Stroud said.
The new student representative attended his first board meeting as a member Thursday evening.
"I'm glad to be here," Parker Mitchell told the fellow board members.
"Thank you all for this opportunity. Because I am here, fellow students have asked about this or that ... Now, I can give them an answer."
Fellow board members welcomed Mitchell to the board and encouraged him to ask many questions.
The board approved policy revisions that would require a yearly evaluation of the director of schools.
Shelly Smith, chief human resources officer, said this will not be a problem for Greeneville City Schools.
"We've been doing this for years. Some schools haven't," she said. According to Smith, the only addition needing to be implemented will be feedback from the community through surveys and other methods.
The board also approved changes to the wording of policy regarding suspension of both tenured and non-tenured teachers.
Smith said the essential change was that teachers may now be suspended up to three days without due process.
Before, a teacher could request a hearing after only one day of suspension.
Smith said the change will save money and allow the school to have more control over minor issues.
Items approved on the consent agenda were:
* minutes of July 26 Board meeting;
* personnel report;
* board policy revisions, on second reading;
* sick leave bank trustees;
* disciplinary hearing authority;
* complaint managers;
* family support center advisory board;
* surety bond for board treasurer;
* coordinated school health agreement; and
* Tennessee School Boards Association ByBoard program.