BY KEN LITTLE
The Greeneville City Schools Board of Education adopted a $24,052,136 general purpose budget for 2012-13 on Thursday night that reflects harsh economic realities.
To balance the budget, more than $500,000 in cuts in positions, salaries, hours and programs were made. The school system had to tap another half-million dollars from its fund balance to make ends meet.
"We can't cut any further," Dr. Linda Stroud, director of schools, said after the meeting.
"We're balancing a deficit budget of half a million dollars," she said.
In the revenue area, Nichole Buchanan, chief financial officer, said the school district anticipates a 1 percent growth in property tax and a 2 percent growth in sales tax.
Tuition for students who live outside city limits will increase $50 per student.
The budget includes a 2.5 percent raise for professional staff, which is an increase mandated by the state; and a $0.25 hourly wage increase for non-certified employees. Health insurance costs will increase 9.2 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2013, Buchanan said.
Other revenues include $11,900,390 in state education funds and other state revenues; $5,717,185 for the yearly city appropriation, transfers, and insurance recovery; and $4,530,098 from local taxes.
The biggest expense category is $11,773,118 for "regular instruction," which includes teacher salaries.
The town's annual appropriation to the school system has not changed from $5,442,395 since the 2007-08 budget year. School system requests for additional funding met with mixed success from the town.
Its initial request to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen was $519,790, and included $35,000 for capital recovery and $250,000 for capital projects.
The town approved an appropriation of $234,790, which includes $60,000 for an additional mathematics teacher at GHS, $22,000 for two teacher assistants at Greeneville Middle School, and $152,790 for two buses.
Before the budget was approved, Mark Patterson, board vice chairman, expressed his frustration with the funding provided by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
The school system requested $519,790 from the town to help pay for teaching positions, equipment and capital expenditures. It received $234,790.
Patterson said he appreciates the town's appropriation, but added the funding for the teaching position and two teaching assistant jobs are funded on a non-recurring basis.
"It's very disappointing. We have mandates put on us at the federal and state level that we have teachers [who] must be present for class size," he said.
"I'm in favor of increased rigor in the schools," Patterson said, but added "its a shame" the town did not provide recurring funds for teachers.
"This is the education of our children in our community. This is the future of our community," he said.
The failure of the town to meet the $35,000 funding request for the credit recovery and tutoring program for students "is a huge disappointment to me," Patterson said.
The credit recovery program works with GHS students who are in danger of not graduating, helping them during the summer to recover credits toward their graduation.
"We're going to have a skyrocketing dropout rate, and what is that going to do for our town?" he asked.
Dropouts won't be contributing to the community or generating revenue for anyone, he said.
"It's very short-sighted," Patterson said.
Jerry Anderson, board chairman, said after the meeting the board "is relieved we got a budget passed."
"We will make do with what we have," he said.
While he is not necessarily elated about the funding level from the town, Anderson said the school system will "take what they provide us and have school."
Stroud said the school system has been compelled to make cuts totaling $1.2 million over the last several years.
The cuts included teachers, teaching assistants and programs, she said.
"I believe it's time the community shows their resolve and their commitment to educational excellence," Stroud said.
Beginning next month, the board will have new officers.
Jerry Anderson, board chairman for the last seven years, and Patterson, who has served as vice chairman for a similar period of time, both stepped down.
The board unanimously approved Craig Ogle as the new chairman and Cindy Luttrell as vice chairman. Mike Hollowell will be treasurer, the position Ogle held until Thursday night.
The changes take effect at the board's next meeting.
"I think it's time that others have the opportunity to assume leadership. We have some very qualified members," Anderson said. "Congratulations to our new slate of officers for the upcoming year."
Stroud said the service of Anderson and Patterson is appreciated.
"I look forward to working with you," she told Ogle and Luttrell.
Also at the meeting, the board gave special recognition to Phillip Graham, district maintenance supervisor, who recently was named Tennessee School Plant Manager of the Year.
The Tennessee School Plant Management Association is an association of school facility planners, maintenance and operations supervisors, and other persons who have administrative supervisory positions in the area of school facilities, public or private, to include the college and university level.
Graham was recognized by his peers as a professional dedicated to making improvements, said Ed DePew, of Bristol City Schools, a former president of the organization.
DePew presented Graham with a plaque "in recognition of (his) dedication and hard work."
"We realize how important he is to this organization," Anderson said.
In other business, the board approved:
* First reading of a revision to the school district governing suspension/expulsion/remand. Tennessee law provides a basic list of offenses that can result in the suspension or expulsion of a student.
The statutory change adds "the assault on school bus drivers and other school personnel with obscene, vulgar or threatening language or threatening language" to the list, according information on the Board of Education agenda item.
* A change in the 2012-13 school calendar to comply with notification from the Tennessee Department of Education that the TCAP testing window for writing for the 2012-13 school year will now be Feb. 4-8, 2013. The previously announced date was Feb. 5.
* Athletic accident insurance through Scholastic Insurers. The insurance is provided for Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association-sanctioned sports.
The coverage is provided through TSSAA membership and does not require the school system to submit premiums for the coverage, which does not take effect until a $10,000 deductible per claim is met.
* Catastrophic coverage for all accidents that occur to students during the normal school day or while taking part in school-sponsored and supervised activities, including summer camps sponsored by the schools.
Coverage, which is provided by Loomis & Lapann, includes a deductible of $10,000 per incident. The coverage will cost $1.15 per Greeneville High School student and $1 per middle, elementary and pre-school students.
Based on year-end enrollment, the 2012-13 school year premium will be $2,802.60, an increase of $22.25 from the prior year.
* A CHECKredi membership agreement that offers check collection services for the school system for returned, bad and non-sufficient fund checks.
* A Greeneville City School Employee Handbook policy update. "The 2012-13 Employee Handbook contains minor revisions in organization and format with some revised and additional content," according to the agenda item.
* A recommendation to add a new permanent part-time custodian position to be used in substitute situations and for special cleaning projects when staffing levels are at 100 percent.
Funds for the position are budgeted in the 2012-12 school system budget.