County school system approves budget with funding shortfall

Published 8:11 pm Friday, May 18, 2018

Members of the Carter County Board of Education approved a tentative budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year on Thursday despite still not having solid numbers from the state regarding its allocation for the school system this year.

The Board approved a budget that has an estimated $244,000 shortfall that will need to be taken from the school system’s fund balance in order to cover all the expenditures in the budget.

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Carter County Finance Director Brad Burke said the estimated revenue for the upcoming fiscal year is $40,956,282. The expenditures for the budget are $41,200,840, which creates a revenue shortage of $255,558.

The school system is planning on tapping their fund balance to cover that shortage instead of asking for increased funding from the county.

Carter County Director of Schools Dr. Kevin Ward stated the system did not want to have to dip into the fund balance to cover the mandatory increases, but there was no other option due to insufficient revenue coming in.

“We as a school system cannot financially sustain, and it’s not fiscally responsible to tap into the fund balance to balance the budget,” Ward said.

The approved budget contains estimates regarding the state’s Basic Education Program (BEP) funding which it provides to local school systems. Ward said the system hopes to have more solid numbers from the state regarding Carter County’s allocation soon. The BEP funding, which is based on the school system’s enrollment, decreased this year because the school system lost 192 students this year compared to the previous year’s student population. Ward said some of those students transferred to city schools while others moved out of the county.

“We have been in a declining enrollment over the last several years,” Ward said.

Cuts have been made to the budget where possible, according to Ward, who said the proposed budget includes the cutting of three teacher positions, which he said will happen through attrition as teachers retire or leave the school system to work elsewhere.

Due to budget timeline constraints, the Board had to approve a budget for the upcoming fiscal year on Thursday afternoon even without the final numbers from the state so the school system could present the budget to the county’s Budget Committee on Thursday evening.

Board member Kelly Crain made a motion to accept the budget as presented with up to $244,558 coming from the fund balance reserve.

If the BEP numbers come in better than anticipated, Crain said that would mean less money that must come from the fund balance. If the BEP allocations come in lower than expected, he said the Board would then have to revisit the funding issue.

Board member Craig Davis provided the second for Crain’s motion, which passed unanimously on a vote by the Board.

In other business, the Board approved an amendment to Ward’s employment contract upon recommendation by Board attorney John Banks.

Ward is currently in the middle of a two-year contract with the Board to serve as Director of Schools. Upon a review of the contract, Banks said it was noticed that the agreement did not specify the salary of the director. Banks noted the system’s auditors would prefer that the contract includes the salary figure.

“It appears in the budget, it just doesn’t appear in the contract,” Banks said.

The Board voted unanimously to approve an amendment to the contract showing that Ward’s salary is set at $96,000 and gave Board Chairman Rusty Barnett authorization to sign and execute the amendment to the contract.