Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Director of Schools responds to potential budget cuts

The Unicoi County Board of Education approved a $23,118,692 budget for the 2015-2016 school year during a meeting last month. All members – Chairwoman Cathy Thomas, Tyler Engle, Lisa White, Garland “Bubba” Evely, Steve Willis and Ruth Gaines – were in attendance at the meeting and voted in favor of the budget.
Director of Schools John English previously told The Erwin Record that the system’s 2015-2016 budget is balanced and that the system would not be asking for any additional funds from the county government.
The system’s budget was questioned by members of the Unicoi County Commission Budget and Finance Committee during a meeting with English and members of the school board last week. Discussed during this meeting was the decline of 96 students enrolled in the system, which decreased the county’s mandatory per pupil funding requirement, which is set by the state’s Education Maintenance Effort formula, by an approximate total of $161,000.
Commission Chairwoman Marie Rice reportedly told English during that meeting that the county would continue to provide funding to the school system at the required rate of $1,677 per student.
English told The Erwin Record last week that the county refusing to fund the $161,000, will hurt the school system.
“Mrs. Rice mentioned that our per pupil expenditure wouldn’t change with this reduction in funding,” English said. “However, we already rank at the bottom in per pupil expenditure in comparison to surrounding districts. That suggestion is a very regressive way to look at our county's commitment to education. No matter how it’s spun, losing $161,000 is detrimental to our student’s education. There is a direct correlation between what we have invested in our students’ education and our results.
“Our test scores reflect a serious need to improve the support and resources we provide our teachers and students. With all the increase in demands and accountability, we haven't addressed that at all in terms of additional funding. Look around and do research and you find out that other systems have.”
English also expressed concerns about the damage that losing funding from the county, as well as the loss of Basic Education Funds from the state, could cause the system and its students.
“We have already been notified by the state department of a nearly $600,000 reductions in state funding for the 2016-17 school year,” he added. “We have already begun to address this by moving current employees into vacated positions, thus reducing our total workforce and expenditures. We are being proactive with this situation, but certainly can’t afford additional funding loss. Our teachers work harder than anyone around. I've seen it myself over the years, but the fact is their efforts haven't been properly and sufficiently supported.”
English then called on the county to fund the system’s budget as is, which is less than the previous fiscal year.
“It is really quite simple from my standpoint,” he said. “Our budget is balanced and we aren’t asking for any additional funding. Our teachers, students and county as a whole deserve better than a suggestion to take money from students. I have a hard time understanding a conversation that involves using students’ dollars to solve our county's financial issues.
“Our parents make sacrifices everyday for their children’s success. We owe it to these parents to make the necessary decisions to demonstrate our commitment to our students.”
English also said he and the members of the school board are working for a strong future for the system and all its students.
“The board’s commitment to our students’ future is strong,” he said. “All of our energies and conversations have been geared toward what is best for our teachers and students while working within the boundaries of our budget. The board wants what's best for the school system. At the end of the day is there anything more important than our students? They obviously represent the future of this county.”
No official action was taken on the school system’s budget last week.
English also said he hoped the majority of the commissioners would support the school system’s budget.
“My feeling from Monday was that many, if not most, of the commissioners are supportive of our budget,” English said. Mr. “(Loren) Thomas and Mr. (Gene) Wilson both spoke openly about not supporting a cut to our funding. “