Sumner County Commission wants school budget cut

On Monday night, the commission approved the county's budget for the 2012-2013 school year, however the debate regarding a $7.5 million gap remains.

The school system's $197,786,713 budget includes mandatory raises for teachers, mandatory increases in health insurance premiums and new textbooks.

The school district also wants to add GPS monitoring to school busses for $100,000 and add eight high school counselor positions at a cost of $480,000.

If the commission approved the budget as proposed it would require an additional $9.704,727 in funding.

The school district would pull $2,066,399 from its reserve fund.

The school system wants the county commission to cover the remaining $7,638,328.  

The Sumner County's Executive said the commission would have to increase property taxes to provide that level of funding.

The commission is prepared to allocate an additional $5 million in funds to the school system.

“If the commission were to approve that this evening that would be a 10%  increase in their property taxes,” Anthony Holt said.

Currently the tax rate in Sumner County is $2.02 per $100 of assessed value.

Holt said it would require a $.19 to $.20 increase in the tax rate to raise the more than $7.6 million.

The other option is to take money from the county's capital projects fund, according to Holt.

But, that would deplete the fund and leave the county without money to pay for capital projects, including improvements to some county schools.

State law prohibits the commission from reducing funding to the school system from the previous year.

“This year they are going to get five million additional dollars,” Holt said. “So next year the budget cannot go below that.”

He continued, “If we fund an additional $7.5 million, the next budget can't go below that.”

Sumner County School officials declined to comment about the proposed budget, pending a school board meeting on Tuesday.

The school board is expected to discuss changes to the budget.

Sumner County Commissioner Paul Decker is chairman of the commission Education Committee.  He also worked in Sumner County Schools for 36 years including 25 years as principal of Hendersonville High School.

Decker proposed increase the property tax rate to help fund some of the school system's requests.

The motion failed in committee and again when proposed to the full commission on Monday.

“We have not had a tax increase in the six years I have been on this commission,” he said. “I think its time we step up and help the board of education.”

Decker said a full $.19 to $.20 increase would not be his recommendation, but a moderate increase was appropriate.

“I think public education is the back bone of this country,” he said. “It is the back bone of this county.”

The school system has until the end of September to submit a completed and adopted budget to the state for review.

The Sumner County School Board is set to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

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