The Board of Education went back to work Wednesday night on making adjustments and cuts to its proposed budget for the 2014-15 school year.
To comply with the wishes of the budget committee of the county commission, the school board voted 4-3 to reduce proposed spending by a total of $331,469 to keep overall expenditures in the general purpose school budget at the same level next year as this year, $20,576,347.
No current positions or personnel will be eliminated because of the cuts but a proposal to add at least one new academic coach to help teachers and students in the classrooms will not be funded. New athletic coaching supplements will remain in the budget.
Concerned that the school system may soon have to actually start dipping into its reserves to operate, members of the county budget committee last Thursday voted 4-1 to ask the school board to make cuts in its proposed budget.
Meeting in special session Wednesday night, the board voted on proposed cuts outlined by Director of Schools Mark Willoughby. Reductions were made in many line items throughout the spending plan. "The county court (commission) requested that we cut $331, 469 from our expenditures. We have gone through here and in some areas we have cut large. Some areas we have cut low. It (cuts) comes to a total of $331,469. What pleases the board is what we'll try to work with," said Director Willoughby.
New athletic coaching supplement positions totaling $20,333 were included among the cuts but Sixth District member Doug Stephens proposed an amendment to keep those supplement positions in the budget by moving funds from two other line items to pay for them including making an additional $18,000 in cuts for natural gas from "Operation of Plant" and $2,300 from "Other Contracted Services" in Transportation .
Stephens said he felt comfortable making further cuts in natural gas because actual expenditures this year and in the last couple of years have been much less than budgeted amounts. " "I think there is a surplus there. The previous two years that are shown, we budgeted more (for natural gas) than what was shown (actual costs). We've reduced it (natural gas) by $10,000 (in this budget) but I think there is still some money there.We're cutting it by $10,000 off the $175,000 that is proposed. But we spent (as of today for this year) $127,000. We project to spend around $135,000 (this year) so there is some extra money in there. And considering that natural gas can go up, conservatively $18,000 (more in cuts for natural gas) is the number (to be transferred to help fund the additional coaching supplements)," said Stephens.
The board voted 4-3 to approve the amendment offered by Stephens to make the fund transfers to keep the coaching supplements in the budget. Board members Stephens, Billy Miller, Kenny Rhody, and W.J. (Dub) Evins, III voted in favor. Board members John David Foutch, Charles Robinson, and Chairman Johnny Lattimore voted no.
First district member John David Foutch said he voted no on the amendment because he would rather try to find the money to fund at least one academic coach. "I'd like to see that academic coach in this budget. That's the reason I'm voting no on this. I believe we could research this and find that $50,000 for that academic coach and give us a pilot program to see if this works. I think it is something that would help our schools. I think it is something that is needed in these schools. In talking to these educational professionals, they recommend it and they deal with this every day. I don't. I think they know a lot more about it than I do and if they think it's necessary I believe we need to try to find a way to fund it," said Foutch.
The board then voted on the proposed budget which makes cuts but adds the new athletic coaching supplement positions. Again the vote was 4-3 with Billy Miller, Doug Stephens, Kenny Rhody, and W.J. (Dub) Evins, III voting in favor and John David Foutch, Charles Robinson, and Chairman Johnny Lattimore voting against.
"I vote no, not because I'm against sports or adding the positions, but we've got a very, very tight budget and it's just going to get tighter and tighter if we don't have additional tax dollars coming in and we may be coming back next year, whoever is on this board, and more than likely will be coming back and cutting these positions as well as other positions if something doesn't change that we have additional revenues. We may have these assistants (coaching supplements) today but we may not have them a year from today. So my vote is no," said Chairman Lattimore.
Director Willoughby said he hopes more emphasis will be placed on academics in future budgets. "I'd like to say that the next time that we do something pertaining to a budget and adding something is going to be with a focus on the academic programs that we have in our schools. Our kids in our athletic programs and extracurricular activities do a good job. But Tennessee needs to do a better job day in and day out of preparing our children to be college and career ready. That starts even before they get to school but the foundation is laid by the third grade," said Director Willoughby.
The proposed budget still includes funding for a new second grade teacher as well as an English teacher, Chemistry teacher, and a part time English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at DCHS.
A total of $20,330 is budgeted for additional coaching supplements including two DCHS assistant soccer coaches (one for the girls team and one for the boys team) totaling $5,570; two assistant DeKalb Middle School soccer coaches ($2,790), a DeKalb Middle School assistant basketball coach ($1,395), a DeKalb Middle School/West School Cross Country Coach and a DCHS Cross Country coach (2 positions totaling $5,000), an assistant DeKalb West School basketball coach ($1,395), an assistant DeKalb West Baseball coach ($1,395); and an assistant high school football coach ($2,785). The original plan included $5,000 for an Athletic Director and $2,500 for DeKalb West School to have its own Cross Country Coach but those supplements were cut from the budget. The board decided to create one Cross Country program for the DeKalb West and DeKalb Middle School combined.
The proposed school budget includes funding for a half-time speech pathologist; a new full time Technology position; and a four thousand dollar pay raise for the Transportation Director position putting that salary up to $36,710.
Total revenues come to $19,203,975. Expenditures are $20,576,347. The school board proposes to use a total of $1,372, 372 in available Technology and BEP cash reserves and unassigned monies from the fund balance to meet expenses in balancing the budget.