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County schools need more local revenue to meet MOE

The Carter County Board of Education needs 1.5 more cents. Photo by Brandon Hicks
That’s the addition to the property tax rate – which equals $96,149 – needed to meet Carter County government’s maintenance-of-effort standard for the school system’s 2014-2015 budget.
Carter County Finance Director Ingrid Deloach explained the state’s requirement that local governments maintain the per-pupil expenditure for school systems from year to year. The next year’s funding level cannot be lower than the previous year’s budgeted amount.
Deloach said the system is seeing losses in both the city/county split funding based on the average daily attendance of students, and local option sales tax revenue. She noted the only revenue the system, and the county, had any control over is property tax revenue.
The system’s sales tax collections were down $271,648 from what was projected in the 2013-2014 budget. The school system’s budget had listed $3,650,000 in sales tax revenue, but it had come in at $3,378,351.
“Sales tax revenues are down across the state,” Deloach said. “There is no way that we can improve that. We don’t know what the sales tax will do. It could end up being lower than what we think, or it could be higher. It is a gamble to predict what the sales tax will do. That is like trying to predict how the economy is going to do.”
For the city/county split funding, Deloach said the county system had lost close to 100 students, while the city was gaining students.
“That doesn’t mean they are gaining 100 of our students,” Deloach said. “That funding is based on the average daily attendance for the system’s students.
For the 2013-2014 school year, the Carter County schools had 5,421 students., but the projected number for the 2014-2015 school year is 5,318.
Part of the maintenance-of-effort agreement is that the funding level of $1,879 in revenue per student be maintained from the county.
Deloach said if the maintenance of effort is not reached, meaning the level of revenue from the county is not the same as it was in the previous budget year, the budget cannot be approved.
Director of Schools Kevin Ward said he would be bringing that recommendation for increased revenue from the county to the County Commission’s Education Committee and then to the Budget Committee.
“Our job is to ask for a budget to educate our children with,” Ward said. “I think we can approach the commission with a balanced budget by asking for the difference in the maintenance of effort to be provided.”