BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Gov. Bill Haslam's 2013-2014 state budget proposal would benefit the Greene County School System with additional state funding for such items as readiness for new testing, capital outlay, insurance premiums and salaries, according to County Director of Schools Dr. Vicki Kirk.
Kirk provided the Greene County Board of Education with an early look at the coming year's state budget on Monday during a workshop held at the school system's Central Office.
According to information Kirk supplied the board, Haslam's proposal, if passed, would provide the county school system with a projected:
* $448,000 for testing readiness related to the cost of the technology and infrastructure necessary for students to take standardized tests online in the 2014-2015 school year;
* $300,000 for capital outlay;
* $460,000 for all 12 months of insurance premiums (currently calculated at 10 months); and,
* funding for a 1.5 percent increase in the state portion of salaries.
Kirk noted that the salary increase "does not mandate [an] across-the-board pay increase" because the county school system already meets the state's required minimal salary schedule.
Board member Kathy Austin clarified that such funding could therefore be used for merit bonuses or other such items.
For now, Kirk said that the system would focus on gathering information as it becomes available to form the county schools' own 2013-2014 budget.
She provided the board with a timeline for forming the budget. The timeline included studying "major inflationary factors" such as retirement, fuel and step increases (scheduled salary increases).
The implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) could prompt a significant increase in insurance costs for the system, Kirk noted.
"That's big. That's looming out there," she said.
Budget Director Mary Lou Woolsey has so far plugged into last year's expenditures an estimated 5 percent increase in the insurance costs in addition to the step increases.
This projected adjustment has increased the proposed expenditures from last year's budget by about $200,000, Kirk said.
"That does not mean we will have a deficit of $200,000, because we do not have a look at revenue yet," she emphasized.
"We can't say what our deficit will be, or if we'll have one at all, until we examine our revenues."
More information on expenditures and revenues will be available by April, Kirk said.
Kirk also presented a document detailing budgetary requests from all county school system principals.
In addition to some furniture requests, many schools requested an additional special education teacher, a teaching assistant or other additional positions.
At the four high schools, North Greene requested another English teacher and asked for the music program to be replaced with another subject.
Kirk explained that this request is due to poor participation in the music program and said that she would bring a recommendation in response to this request in March.
There is already no music program at South Greene High School as a result of the lack of participation, although the school does have a band program, she noted.
In addition, Chuckey-Doak High School had a robust interest in music, but little participation in art.
Staffing and programming have changed to reflect this student response, she said.
Other high school requests include an additional custodian at each of two larger high schools, Chuckey-Doak and West Greene.
Moreover, West Greene also requested another English teacher, a part-time counselor, and a school nurse.
Kirk said that the last request is in response to the needs of several students that attend the schools who have serious medical conditions.
At South Greene, the only request not already being met by the recent programming changes is one for an additional mathematics and chemistry teacher or a physics teacher.
Kirk said that she would evaluate all requests during the upcoming budgeting cycle.