With Over $5 Million in Fund Balance
Budget Committee Stays the course - 8 cent Property Tax Hike
Budget Committee Chairman Mayor Doyle Arp (l), D-1 Comissioner Nancy Marcus (m) and D-5 Commissioner Chris Park (l)
Budget Committee vote 5 Cents More to Schools
School Budget $200,000 in Red – More Cuts Needed!
By: Pat Hunter
Budget Committee members commented, can we afford to give the schools another five cents without raising taxes more than eights cents and still end up with a Fund Balance of over $5 Million? The answer was yes, but more importantly, why didn’t the Budget Committee give the Schools more money given the County’s Bonanza $5 Million Fund Balance amid a slump economy?
The Budget Committee met with top School Administrators on Monday, July 7th to discuss the proposed FY 08-09 School Budget. New School Director Wayne Honeycutt was in attendance but Assistant School Director Gil Luttrell led the discussion about the School Budget. School Director Honeycutt commented that it didn't take a rocket scientist to see that Commission and School Board didn't see eye to eye but he wanted to provide as much information as possible and to make Loudon County better. Honeycutt pledged his cooperation starting now. Commissioner Marcus said that last year was a "disaster."
Other than some administrative personnel, no School Board member was present to lend moral support or to hear the budget discussion for the 2:00 P.M. meeting. Perhaps, the time of the meeting was a factor. Parent Lisa Russell vying for the Greenback School Board seat was present and so far she has attended all of this year’s Budget Meetings even when the Budget Committee met at 7:00 AM, a couple of months back.
The Budget Committee and School administrators rehashed issues and concerns about the School Budget and the general financial picture of Loudon County’s healthy finances. Little was said about the county employee health insurance by Commissioner Nancy Marcus. Could it be because her spouse Bill Marcus is seeking another term on the School Board and she doesn’t want to rock the boat quite yet or cost him any votes?
Mayor Doyle Arp started off the discussion with his comments; the talk on the street is to give the schools another nickel, he said. Arp was given an “atta boy” by fellow Budget Committee members for holding the elected officials “feet to the fire” with their respective department budgets.
Commissioner Bob Franke made the motion to give the Schools an additional five-cents, which was seconded by Commissioner Don Miller. The motion was unanimously approved by the Budget Committee. The five cents will come from the County General Fund. Commissioners are expected to vote on the proposed eight cent tax hike at the August 4th 6:00 P.M. Commission meeting. The Budget Committee will meet one more time, for a brief fifteen minutes prior to the Aug. 4th meeting to take care of some loose ends regarding the Road Superintendent’s $10,000 pay supplement and Commission’s ten percent wage hike.
The Budget Committee also discussed the County’s healthy fund balance. Last year, Loudon County had a beginning Fund Balance of $6,377,532 but instead of giving the Schools more pennies, the Budget Committee made other recommendations. Can you imagine the mindset of the Budget Committee making recommendations to spend public monies on development projects instead of schools? Tax monies used to pay off debt for the County’s portion of a public road to a gated golf course development for real estate mogul John “Thunder” Thornton’s and famous golfer Greg Norman’s and his Great White Shark Enterprises and Macquarie Bank of Australia. Nothing but the best for the rich and famous while our county students are cramped in trailers like sardines.
Last July 7th the Budget Committee spoke about a $6 Million Fund Balance and looked for ways to spend the surplus. One project, which received the Green Light was approval to move $1 Million into an account to cover the bills for constructing a public road for Christenson Yachts. The money purportedly would be reimbursed with State Grant money but Mayor Arp is already talking about using those funds for "two nice county projects", which he referenced at the Budget meeting. Do you remember the big carrot that was dangled before the public for welcoming Christenson Yachts and constructing the new road at taxpayers expenses, 500 to 1,000 new jobs but the jobs haven’t materialized so far?
The Budget Committee just voted to recommend an additional five cents to the School Operating Budget. But this isn't enough and another $200,000 must be cut from the proposed FY 08-09 School Budget. The School Board will address this issue at Thursday’s July 10th BOE meeting when new School Director Wayne Honeycutt is expected to make recommendations to the Board. One possibility is to cut out the Family Liaison’s, which employs mostly retired teachers.