Receive Letter On
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Parents of students who registered to attend Glenwood Elementary School in the coming year will be receiving -- or have received already -- a letter recently sent in the mail from Greene County Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk.
The letter addresses the "what if" that has weighed on many of the Glenwood parents and students all summer -- what if the Greene County Board of Education decides to close Glenwood?
The question first came up as a possibility and the subject of discussion several months ago when Kirk announced that the system is facing a $1.19 million deficit for 2012-2013.
The school board has requested that the Greene County Commission provide additional local revenue to cover the deficit.
The board says that, over the last few years, the county school budget has been cut as much as it can be without harming the core educational role of the school system.
A proposal to raise the county wheel tax from $20 to $40 with the funds going to local Greene County and Greeneville schools was rejected in a countywide referendum on Aug. 2.
The possibility of providing revenue to the schools through an increase in the county property tax is expected to be discussed and voted on at a called meeting of the Greene County Commission on Monday morning.
The proposed overall county budget, including the proposed school budget with its anticipated deficit, will be presented at a public hearing at 9 a.m. Monday in the Criminal Courtroom on the second floor of the Greene County Courthouse.
The formal County Commission meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in the same room.
In the last few months, Director of Schools Kirk has drawn up a list of possible money-saving steps that she says the county schools would need to consider if revenue to cover the anticipated shortfall is not provided.
She has stated repeatedly that the items on the list are in no order of priority. What specific actions would need to be taken would depend on how much revenue is needed to cover the budget deficit, she has explained.
The school board, together with the director of schools, will decide what steps to take once it is clear how much revenue the school system will receive from the county government for the 2012-2013 budget year.
The largest single item among those potential cuts, according to the list Kirk presented, would be closing Glenwood, the county system's smallest school. She has estimated that action would save $586,210.
Teachers and staff previously employed at Glenwood would be transferred to open positions at other schools, rather than hiring new staff, according to Kirk.
In addition, the school system would then not fill several open positions at Glenwood.
LETTER SENT OUT
So far, she said, 199 students have registered to attend Glenwood.
Based on where they live, these students would be transferred to surrounding schools, including DeBusk, Mosheim, Nolachuckey and McDonald elementary schools.
"We were getting a lot of calls from parents about, 'Where would my child go if Glenwood were closed,'" Kirk said Friday in an interview.
"I thought they really should know what will happen should the worst case happen, because, if it does happen, we'll have a very short turnaround time on it."
The director said that the letter went out earlier this week to all addresses in the system for a student attending Glenwood.
"We just hope -- really hope -- it doesn't come to this," she said.
"The unfortunate thing is, we have to prepare for every eventuality so that we can provide as smooth operations as possible.
"But that doesn't mean we're in any way looking forward to something like this happening," she added.
TEXT OF LETTER
In the letter, Kirk provides the following information for parents concerning what to expect for their child should Glenwood close:
"This letter is in regard to your child (children) [insert name(s)].
"I know this summer has been very trying for you as a parent of a student at Glenwood. We are working diligently to secure the revenue necessary to keep Glenwood open. We do, however, want to keep you informed of plans should the worst-case scenario happen.
"If Glenwood were closed, based on your current address at [insert address], your child (children) would attend [insert school name]. If your child (children) rides a bus, the bus he/she (they) would ride would be bus #[insert bus number].
"If this change becomes necessary, you will be informed of the process of registering your child at the new school via phone message.
"Should you decide to enroll your child in a school in Greene County other than the one for which you are zoned, you would need to make contact with the principal of the selected school. Board Policy 6.205 provides that students may attend a school other than the one for which they are zoned given the following:
"* Parents provide transportation.
"* The enrollment of the student(s) does not cause overcrowding.
"Principals have the right to refuse out of zone students if any of the following conditions exist:
"2. Past discipline problems
"3. Severe absentee problems
"Again, we are hopeful that these measures will not be necessary, but we wanted to provide you the information you need to start school under any circumstance. If you have questions, you may call our office at 639-4194.
"Thank you for your patience, and I hope you have a good year."
At the County Commission meeting on Monday, Commissioner Bill Moss has stated that he plans to propose a 20-cent increase in the current county property tax rate: 15 cents allocated to the schools, two cents allocated to the County General Fund, and three cents allocated to the County Highway Department.
Greene County Mayor Alan Broyles and the County Commission Budget and Finance Committee oppose raising the property tax.
In addition, the issue of whether to raise property taxes to cover or partially cover the anticipated school budget deficit has become highly controversial in the county.
Some citizens have stressed what they consider the vital role of the schools for both educating the young and providing a foundation for economic development, and have urged that the county increase its support for local education.
Others have expressed opposition to raising the tax rate, citing the county's double-digit unemployment rate and/or various criticisms of the school system's use of funds that opponents of a tax increase say could have been used to cover the budget deficit.
CURRENT TAX RATES
The current county property tax is $1.3137 per $100 of assessed value for those living inside the city limits of Greeneville.
An additional $0.1932 which goes to the county school system's Education Debt Service Fund brings the total up to $1.5069 for those living outside the Greeneville city limits.