by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the July 8 meeting following two hours of deliberation, the Franklin County School Board approved a fourth round of amendments making additional cuts to the 2019-20 budget. An alternate proposal granting a 2 percent raise to support employees, a 1.5 percent raise to contract bus drivers, and years-of-service step increases for all certified employees failed to receive enough votes to pass.
On July 2, the Franklin County Finance Committee rejected the school board’s third budgeting attempt that slashed over $500,000 in addtion to $300,000 in cuts from a previous budget. The additional cuts satisfied the Finance Committee’s concerns about drawing down the reserve fund balance to dangerously low levels, but the Finance Committee objected to removing the raises for classified employees, contract bus drivers, and certified employees who did not receive step increases. The proposed county budget includes 2.8 percent raises for highway department and solid waste department employees and 2 percent raises in all other departments, excluding the school system.
To satisfy the Finance Committee’s objection, Director of Schools Stanley Bean worked with his staff last week to revise the school system budget to include raises for classified employees, contract bus drivers, and step increases for all certified employees. Bean noted Mayor David Alexander agreed to review the property tax levy, taking into account the reduction in the schools’ share of the total over the past seven years.
“That’s a good faith effort on Alexander’s part. We need to make a good faith effort on our part, as well,” said Bean.
To balance the expense of the raises, Bean proposed cutting $200,000 for unplanned positions, $15,000 for bus garage supplies, $100,000 for bus garage construction, and returning $125,000 to the fund balance previously earmarked for the bus garage.
Over the weekend, Deputy Director of Finance Cindy Latham found an error in the reporting of prior encumbrances in the budget reviewed by the Finance Committee on July 2. The error zeroed out the impact of the recent cuts proposed by Bean, meaning his proposed budget would leave only $2.5 million in the fund balance.
Vice Chair Lance Williams spoke against approving the budget. “We took $1.2 million from the fund balance this year, and the proposed budget requires taking $1.696 million from the proposed budget next year. We are spending more than we are receiving. Our goal should be to have a balanced budget.”
By law, the reserve fund balance must contain 3 percent of the budget. Williams stressed if the fund balance continued to drop at that current level, it would fall below the 3 percent minimum requirement in two years.
Williams and board member Chris Guess voted against including the pay raises in the budget. Board members Linda Jones, Christine Hopkins, Sara Liechty, and Chair Cleijo Walker voted for including the raises. A majority of five out of eight members is needed for the board to pass a measure. The board is short two members due to the death of board member Gary Hanger and the resignation of Adam Tucker.
The board approved Bean’s proposed budget without the raises, which will leave the fund balance at just under $3 million.
The board will have an opportunity to discuss the 2019-20 budget with the county commission at a special workshop July 23. The commission will vote on the full county budget July 29.
According to Bean, if the county commission rejects the school system budget, the school board will have 10 days to make additional revisions. If the county commission again rejects the school system’s budget, the schools will be funded at the 2018-19 level. If the county commission fails to approve an increase in school funding for three consecutive years, the state will mandate an annual increase of 3 percent.
Twelve days of readings and lectures open with fiction writer Tim O’Brien
Celebrating its 30th summer session, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference will run from Tuesday, July 16, through Saturday, July 27, and feature readings, panels, and lectures by nationally recognized faculty, editors, publishers, and literary agents. We will also celebrate Wyatt Prunty’s 30 years of leadership and welcome Leah Stewart as the new director of the Conference.
The Conference will begin with a reading by fiction writer Tim O’Brien on July 16, at 8:15 p.m. All readings and lectures are free, open to the public, and held in the University of the South’s Mary Sue Cushman Room of the Bairnwick Women’s Center.
Tim O’Brien is the author of seven novels, including “Going After Cacciato,” which received the National Book Award, and “The Things They Carried,” which was named by The New York Times as one of the 20 best books of the last quarter century and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. His novels have sold more than six million copies and have been translated into more than 20 languages. His new work of nonfiction, “Dad’s Maybe Book,” will be published in the autumn of 2019.
The first week of the Conference will also feature readings by fiction writers Christine Schutt, Leah Stewart, Randall Kenan, and Jill McCorkle; poets Charles Martin, Maurice Manning, and Sidney Wade; and playwright Naomi Iizuka. The second week will feature readings by fiction writers Margot Livesey, Bobbie Ann Mason, Steve Yarbrough, Michael Knight, Tony Earley, Alice McDermott, and Adrianne Harun; poets B.H. Fairchild, Mark Jarman, Mary Jo Salter, Marilyn Nelson, Wyatt Prunty, Robert Hass, and A.E. Stallings; and playwright Dan O’Brien.
Editors from 32 Poems, 5E, Algonquin Books, The American Scholar, Blackbird, Copper Canyon Press, Crab Orchard Review, Ecotone, Grand Central Publishing, Grove Atlantic, The Hopkins Review, Kenyon Review, Lookout Books, The Missouri Review, The New Criterion, New Directions, Northwestern University Press, The Paris Review, The Sewanee Review, The Southern Review, University of Arkansas Press, and The Washington Examiner will discuss publishing, as will agents from Georges Borchardt Literary Agency, The Gernert Company, ICM Partners, Massie & McQuilkin Literary Agents, and The Wylie Agency.
Agents from Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents and Folio Literary Management will also be in attendance, and representatives from The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and the Agency for the Performing Arts will meet with playwrights.
A complete Conference schedule can be found on page 6, or online at <sewaneewriters.org/schedule>. Authors’ books are available at the University Book & Supply Store.
Supported by the Walter E. Dakin Memorial Fund established through the estate of the late Tennessee Williams, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference offers instruction and criticism to writers through a series of workshops, readings, and craft lectures in poetry, fiction, and playwriting. For more information, call (931) 598-1654 or visit <sewaneewriters.org>.
The 33rd Annual Sewanee Fourth of July Celebration
The celebration will begin on Wednesday, July 3, with the Street Dance at the Sewanee Market at 8 p.m. featuring Bad Nayber. Stay until midnight to start the Fourth off right! The rain location for the Street Dance is Cravens Hall. Ball Park Road will close at 4 p.m. on July 3 for the Street Dance.
The Sewanee Community Center is hosting a Sunrise Yoga session at 6:15 a.m. in Manigault Park. The class is free and for any level of yoga ability. Mats, bolsters, blocks and straps will be provided. The rain location is in Sewanee Community Center.
Begin your Fourth with music and song at the 47th annual Flag Raising at Juhan Bridge in Abbo’s Alley. Come join us at 8 a.m. to sing patriotic songs accompanied by the Sewanee Summer Music Festival’s brass quintet, and then watch our local Scout Troop 14 raise the flag. A potluck breakfast immediately follows.
Our sponsors, The Friends of Abbo’s Alley, will offer coffee and juice. Please add to the sausage biscuits by bringing your favorite breakfast finger foods (or make a small donation). The potluck breakfast is amidst the Smith, Gardner and Beaumont Zucker homes at 139 and 143 Florida Avenue.
Enter Abbo’s Alley from Florida Avenue to receive a program. For more information or to volunteer to serve coffee or juice, call Margaret Beaumont Zucker at (931) 598-5214.
Join the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly in celebrating their 42nd Annual Pub Run starting at 8 a.m. Runners will meet at the MSSA Front Gate and run to Shenanigan’s (6.4 miles) on the Mountain Goat Trail. Walkers may start at Dollar General. The fee for the run is $20. Pre-register at the MSSA Office or call 924-2286 for more information. All are welcome to participate. There will be awards for winners and beer at the finish line.
Arts & Crafts Fair
The Arts & Crafts Fair will begin at 9 a.m., Thursday, July 4 at Shoup Park. There will be a variety of art for sale. On July 4, please do not park on the streets around Shoup Park to accommodate the Arts & Crafts Fair.
Enter your favorite pooch in the 2019 Fourth of July Mutt Show! All dogs are welcome to compete—no talent necessary. The Mutt Show will begin in Manigault Park at 10 a.m. You may pre-register at <sewanee4thofjuly.org> under Event Registration. You may also register on the day of the event from 9 to 9:45 a.m. Ribbons will be awarded for these canine categories: Best Dressed, “Grooviest” Doggie, Owner/Dog Look-Alike, Best Trick, and Judges’ Choice. There will also be an award for Best Dog Joke. Entrants may register to compete in two categories. The registration fee is $5 per category, and all proceeds will go to help fund the fireworks display. There is a suggested donation of $1 for audience members—those proceeds will go to help our furry friends at Animal Harbor and MARC. We are looking for volunteers to help with set up, registration and doggie line-up. If you are interested, please contact Sarah Butler at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Calling all cake bakers! Have a favorite cake recipe or a talent for cake decorating? Put your skills on display this Fourth of July by entering your cake in the Sewanee Woman’s Club Annual Cake Contest! Entering is free of charge, and the winner of the Best All-Around Cake gets $100 cash, courtesy of IvyWild Catering. But there’s more!
Adult winners of the Best Tasting, Best Decorated, and Best Representation of the Theme cakes each get a ribbon and $50 gift certificate from Octoπ. Under-13 winners of the Best Tasting, Best Decorated, and Best Representation of the Theme cakes each get a ribbon and a gift card. There will also be a Best All-Around winner for the children’s cakes.
Winners of the Best Tasting, Best Decorated, and Best Representation of the Theme contests will be entered in the Best All-Around Competition. Thanks to Ken Taylor for his ribbon sponsorship.
Show up to register and set up your cake between 9–9:45 a.m. on Thursday, July 4, in St. Mark’s Hall at Otey Parish. You may also pre-register at <sewanee4thofjuly.org> under Event Registration.
Winners will be announced at noon. All are invited to view the cake entries, and there will be a cake tasting party on site afterwards. Enter as an individual or as a team. One entry per person or per team.
Questions? Please call Susan Peek at (615) 504-5404.
String Blazers Performance
The String Blazers ensemble under the direction of Jess Wilson will perform in Shoup Park at 10 a.m. Come listen to music while you browse the Arts & Crafts Fair offerings.
Children’s games and bounce houses will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Quad. If you are interested in volunteering to help with the children’s games, send a message on <sewanee4thofjuly.org> under Contact Us or send an email to <email@example.com>.
Vendors along University Avenue will begin selling food and drinks at 10 a.m.
Leave Us a Memory
The Sewanee Trust for Historic Preservation invites you to Leave Us a Sewanee Memory - you have 4 Minutes! from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Folks at Home office just below Reed Lane and Sewanee Elementary School. The STHP wants to gather residents, visitors, former residents, relatives of residents, and anyone else who has a story to tell about people, places, or events in Sewanee. The participants in this oral history event will need to provide their name and signature allowing the recording for future use. We hope those who “Leave Us a Sewanee Memory” will have fun telling their stories — and maybe they will want to have a longer interview with STHP members later in the summer. Information on the Oral History program for the community and the Sewanee Trust organization will be available.
Corn Hole, Craft Beer and BBQ
From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., hang out downtown and get ready for the parade with fun games of corn hole, refreshing craft beer and delicious barbeque.
Patriotic Photo Booth
This is a new event at the new store 1866 Revival (next to Taylor’s). Come have your picture taken with a vintage VW bus staged by Heirlooms Vintage Rentals. You will receive a free mini Polaroid picture while supplies last.
See Sewanee’s Future
From noon to 2 p.m: See Sewanee’s Future at The Blue House. This will be an open house featuring the downtown development project plans. Take the opportunity to see the future of Sewanee and learn about the Master Plan for the additions to downtown Sewanee. This project has been in the planning stages since 2012 and is now on the brink of action with specific projects to vitalize the Sewanee Downtown. University Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor, Frank Gladu and Director of Implementation from Town Planning and Urban design Collaborative, Becky Timmons, will be on hand to describe the plan, the projects and answer questions. All are welcome including developers and investors who are needed to bring the plan to life. Learn more at <sewanee.edu/village>.
Breslin Tower Bells
Also at noon, The University of the South Guild of Change-Ringers will perform at Breslin Tower.
The Sewanee Fourth of July Committee is proud to announce a new event for this years’ festivities - a Picnic Contest. For those of you who have a great setup for the Fourth and like to host a party for your family and friends, why not enter our contest to see if your picnic is the best. The winner will receive a brand new Picnic Basket set. Participants will setup their picnics in their usual spots up and down University Avenue and then starting at 1 p.m. on July 4, judges will visit each entry. If you are interested and would like to enter or if you have any questions regarding the contest, please contact Amanda Bailey at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Charlene Williamson, Hannah True and Raymond Gotko will perform a Carillon Recital at 1 p.m. Bring a chair to All Saints’ Chapel to enjoy the music.
The Fourth of July Parade Committee has been working for months on the biggest, best, most arms-open-wide parade Sewanee has ever seen. There will be fire engines, police cars, the grand marshal, candy galore, and this year they want you and your organization to be recognized and cheered on in the Peace, Love, and Fireworks parade.
Sewanee’s Fourth of July Parade celebrates America and its origins at a time when the ideals of freedom and good citizenship were agreed upon by all. The parade is an event where everyone feels welcome and respected—where spectators and participants alike feel proud of our town for its creativity, diversity, and mutual respect.
The committee wants you to know there are so many creative ways to strut your stuff up University Avenue, and they range from traditional and elaborate to simple, elegant, memorable, and bizarre. Anything with wheels is good: flatbeds, cars, convertibles, golf carts, wagons, wheelbarrows, bikes, big wheels, scooters; but on foot (or hooves) could be even better, especially if you’ve got a colorful banner (and/or signs, big hats, confetti, giant pinwheels) declaring who you are and what you do for this diverse community.
The parade begins at 2 p.m on Thursday, July 4, with line-up on Lake O’Donnell Road starting at noon and ending at 1 p.m. This is when and where the judging will be: trophies for best float, best decorated vehicle, and best horse; and blue ribbons for best decorated bicycle, best banner, and best costume.
Lake O’Donnell Road will be closed to through traffic from 1:15 to 2:15 p.m. During the parade, Hall Street will be one-way only from University to Georgia Avenue. All parade entrants should come into Lake O’Donell from the Market side, so they can check in. Late entrants will have to pay a $20 fee.
Please do not park on University Avenue. All vehicles must be moved before 1 p.m. to make room for the parade.
The parade will begin at 2 p.m., starting at the Sewanee Market and will travel through town, turning on to Hall Street and ending in the parking lot behind the Hospitality Shop. All sirens will be turned off at Texas Avenue.
Air Show & Rides
The Fourth of July committee is sorry to announce that the Airplane Rides and Air Show are canceled this year due to a lack of pilots. We hope to be able to bring these events back in the future.
Everyone ages 13 and up is invited to participate in a volleyball tournament starting at 5 p.m. at Lake Cheston. Each team must have at least four players and at least two females. Register online at <sewanee4thofjuly.org> under Event Registration to reserve your team’s spot in the tournament or register on July 4 at the event. There is no fee to participate, and the grand prize is $100 cash.
The Sewanee Summer Music Festival students will perform a Patriotic Celebration at 7 p.m. in the Quad.
After dark, the Fireworks Show will be at Lake Cheston. There will be a suggested donation of $1 to contribute to next year’s fireworks. Parking at the Lake will be limited to handicapped and special needs only. Chief Marie Ferguson asks that if you need a handicap or special need parking pass for the fireworks show, please go by the Sewanee Police Station. Simply go to the window at the station, give your name, and you will be given a pass. If you have a permanent handicap tag you will not need a temporary one.
Texas Avenue will close at 6 p.m. in advance of the fireworks.
A shuttle will be available starting at 6 p.m. at the EQB Monument to transport people to and from the fireworks. The cost per person is $3. To keep pedestrians leaving the fireworks safe, the shuttle will not run after the fireworks until all pedestrian traffic clears.
by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer
The second annual benefit concert for Folks at Home is scheduled for 2 p.m., Saturday, July 6, in Angel Park, downtown Sewanee.
There will be a raffle, a silent auction and live music, with all proceeds going to Folks at Home. The Shenanigans food truck will be onsite with food and drink for purchase.
Folks at Home, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, is part of a larger national village-to-village movement that empowers aging individuals to remain in their homes and communities with dignity, according to Wall Wofford, who serves as the executive director.
“We do that with a two-pillar model. One is services. We provide transportation, home check-ins, tech support, and we coordinate caregivers,” he said. “The other pillar is our programming, and often these are about preventative health. This year we are running a program on balance. Then we are going to cap that all off with ballroom dances. We did a memoir writing class a couple of months ago that finished up, and we started doing book reading clubs this year too.”
Wofford, who graduated from the University in 1988, said he began to better understand the challenges that come with growing older when his father passed away.
“That was about 10 years ago, and at that point, my mother, Carolyn, was living alone, and I was in California. I would bring her out for the winter, but I was looking for a way to close the distance,” he said. “That’s when I found the opening with Folks at Home. The first real job I had after Sewanee was as a caseworker. Following that, I became a paramedic, and then I went to seminary. I think I have a heart for people, and I think as my mom was aging, I had even more of a heart for the challenges that come with that. I still have a lot to learn, but working with Folks at Home, I get to help.”
Wofford said the original idea for the benefit concert came after he met Mercedes “Mechi” Ingles, whose family has lived on the Mountain since 1978.
Ingles was unfamiliar with the organization, and as someone who has been in the caregiver role for family members, she said she wanted to do something to raise awareness around the mission of F@H.
“I was disappointed that I hadn’t heard about Folks at Home and what they do. I understand the weight of the work. It can be an even harder role in a very small community where we don’t have huge hospitals and lots of facilities and everything that huge cities can offer,” she said. “To have an organization that specifically focuses on helping people make connections and stay active in their community, that makes things a lot simpler.”
Wofford said he and Ingles put their heads together after she expressed an interest in volunteering, and from there, the benefit concert began taking shape. Ingles reached out to local businesses, musicians and community members, doing what she called “connecting the dots.”
“One of my main goals is to try to get as many businesses involved as possible. The goal is to shine as much light on Folks at Home as we can and encourage community involvement for anybody who is willing and interested,” she said. “Considering the size of Sewanee and the fact that a lot of things are focused on a college-aged generation, I wholeheartedly believe that what Folks at Home does is crucial to our community.”
Wofford said when you boil things down, Folks at Home is all about keeping communities intact.
“Two of the founding members said, ‘We were tired of seeing our friends have to move away because of lack of resources.’ We can’t replace assisted living, but we can extend the time you stay in your home, and you can be there with a greater sense of security and knowing there is someone you can call,” he said.
To support the mission of Folks at Home, mark your calendars for Saturday, July 6. Raffle tickets are $25, and you must be present to claim your prize. Prizes include a salon basket donated by Beauty by Tabitha’s, event swag bags, tours and other items donated by Black Abbey Brewing Company, gifts from Jim Oliver’s Smokehouse and a grand prize of two tickets to a Caverns show.
There will also be a silent auction that includes a certificate for a gourmet meal prepared for up to six people by chef George Stevenson.
For more information, call Folks at Home at (931) 598-0303.
by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer
Winners of the Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition were determined last week. Sewanee Summer Music Festival artistic director John Kilkenny said 73 students entered the competition, and the number was then whittled down to seven.
Hsin-Yi Huang, piano, Katherine Butler, horn, Natalie Sweasy, horn, Stephen Kyle Moore, bass trombone, Brandon Aguilon, horn, and Joshua Sheppard and Shane Powell, marimba & vibraphone, were all selected to compete in the competition.
The Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition was established in 2007 by University graduate Walter Nance and Sewanee resident Mayna Avent Nance in honor of Mayna’s elder sister. All students of orchestral instruments or piano at the festival are invited to enter the Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition. Students compete for recognition of their musical achievements as well as a scholarship to attend the festival next year.
“This opportunity is made possible by an endowment by Walter and Mayna Nance in honor of Jacqueline Avent, and the winners of the competition will perform with the festival orchestra under the direction of Gene Moon,” Kilkenny said.
Shane Powell said upon hearing of the festival’s percussion faculty, he was sold on Sewanee.
“Then seeing the orchestra/chamber repertoire made me decide Sewanee was my first choice this summer. My concerto partner Josh Sheppard showed me the piece at the beginning of the summer; we both figured a double concerto would be an interesting challenge and fun project,” he said. “I am getting a better overall sense of the field I am going into, and being at the festival really will help prepare me for real-world situations.”
Katherine Butler, who has been playing the violin since she was 4-years-old, returned this summer for her third season on the Mountain.
“I keep coming back to the festival for so many reasons — the chance to play incredible repertoire in a professional-level orchestra and the amount of musical growth I’ve experienced in past years is incredible,” she said. “And as for the competition, it’s always a great experience to perform under pressure regardless of the results, and soloing with orchestra is a rare and fun opportunity.”
For Hsin-Yi Huang, who is on the Mountain for the first time this year, said playing with an orchestra is like a dream for most musicians, and the opportunity to do so as a part of the competition drew him in. Josh Sheppard said the same.
“Whenever I play, I feel like I’m in a different world and that everything else fades into the background. I feel like I am making something significant and meaningful to share with others, and I had a piece that I loved and have wanted to play for a long time. Getting to hear a lot of different opinions on music from other like-minded people and get to work with an amazing staff at the festival has been wonderful.”
The Jacqueline Avent Concerto Competition winners will perform at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, July 11. Tickets for the show can be purchased at
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
The summer reading program at Monteagle’s May Justus Memorial Library has become so popular, the event now occurs next door at Monteagle City Hall. What is the draw? The programs coordinated by librarian Karen Tittle make learning fun.
Last Thursday’s program featured “Covalent Bond” the science guy. “You can call me Cocoa,” he joked, calling forward volunteers to portray the sun, moon, and earth demonstrating rotational and gravitational force. In another “experiment,” the children gaped in awe watching shaving cream expand in a vacuum and tried to guess what happened to the water Bond poured in a cup. Answer: in the bottom of the cup the polymer crystal gel used in astronaut diapers absorbed the water. In the final activity of the day, each child conducted their own science experiment making bouncy balls.
The Sewanee Read to be Ready group, aptly titled Camp Curiosity, comes each week for the Thursday program.
“The background the children get here makes them more effective learners,” said Kathryn Bruce, Sewanee Elementary librarian and Camp Curiosity coordinator. “Later when they learn about what a vacuum is, for example, they’ll remember what they learned here today.”
Tittle sought out presenters whose programs embraced the state suggested Summer Reading theme, “A Universe of Stories.” Previous programs featured a ventriloquist, the Tennessee Aquarium, and the Murfreesboro Discovery Center Planetarium. The final two programs, July 11 and July 18, will feature a magician and a juggler.
Tittle coordinates an auction and other events to raise money to fund the summer reading programs, with a budget this year of just $1,500. Each week, there is also a drawing with small prizes awarded. After the program, the students travel next door to the library to check out books, which they return the following week. With attendance ranging from more than 70 to nearly 90, the tiny May Justus library buzzes with activity. Tittle praises her volunteers who shelve books and staff the checkout desk while she oversees program events. Aside from Tittle, the library has only one other paid employee who works just six hours a week.
After checking out books, the children who want to stay are treated to lunch provided by the South Cumberland Summer Meals program, a partnership between the University of the South McClurg Dining Hall and Office of Civic Engagement, the Tennessee Department of Human Services, and the South Cumberland Community Fund. Lunch often includes locally raised fruits and vegetables.
As an extra treat, last week the Chattanooga Food Bank brought bags of nutritious meal preparation ingredients for the children to take home, including fresh cabbage, spaghetti fixings, and oatmeal.
It is not the food, though, but the programs that draw the children in. Only about a third of the children stay for the meal, according to Tittle. She advertises the programs on local radio, TV, and in the newspapers. She attributes the rise in attendance this year to increased parent involvement.
“The kids want to come, but their parents need to make the effort to get them here,” she said.
by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
After having the 2019-20 budget twice rejected by the County Finance Committee, the Franklin County School Board met in a special called session July 1 to draft a revised budget. The school board approved four cost cutting measures, slashing $500,000 from a budget that already reflected drastic cuts in instructional supplies and technology, postponed the long overdue refurbishing of the Franklin County High School auditorium PA system, and eliminated two teaching positions.
Citing a suggestion made by Finance Committee members to cut the budget 20 percent across the board, for a total of $9 million, Director of Schools Stanley Bean said, “That’s not possible.”
Bean also rejected the suggestion to cut wages and salaries by 20 percent, or $2.3 million, with a reduction in staffing.
At a meeting with Finance Committee member David Eldridge and County Mayor David Alexander, Bean was advised to cut staffing by “cutting where it does not hurt as much.”
“That implies someone matters,” Bean said. “That’s an insult to me.”
Bean likewise rejected the suggestion to reduce the budget by closing schools. Moving children to other schools would require additions to the remaining schools, Bean stressed. “Why spend money on schools that are already 60-70 years old?”
Addressing charges that the schools operated inefficiently, Bean pointed out that on the average BEP funding from the state only covered about 70 percent of teachers’ salaries. State requirements for which schools received limited or no funding like Pre-K, Response to Intervention programs, and annually increasing the money devoted to teachers’ salaries, further strained the school systems’ financial resources, Bean insisted. In addition, while the number of students had decreased by 426 over the past five years, the number of teachers had decreased correspondingly by 22.
Bean took issue with the reduction in the percent of property tax dollars received by the schools from 45 percent in 2012 to 38 percent at the present. If the schools had remained at the 45 percent level, the schools would have received an additional $8.3 million over the past five years, eliminating the school systems need to draw on the reserve fund balance each year.
By law, the fund balance must contain at least 3 percent of the annual budget. The repeated draws have pulled the fund balance down to a dangerously low level.
“We need to research how we can reduce the trend,” Bean said. He recommended formation of a committee including representatives from all county departments receiving tax dollars “to look at how taxes should be distributed in our county to find a way to fund our schools.”
Bean acknowledged that neighboring school districts received less in property tax revenue, but these districts received far greater amounts from sales tax and other sources like wheel taxes, Bean said.
To meet the demands of the finance committee and reduce the 2019-20 budget, Bean recommended four cost cutting measures.
One, no raises for bus drivers, classified employees, or certified employees, a $289,000 cut. (Note: to meet the state requirement of $295,000 in new money for teacher salaries, teachers will continue to receive degree advancement bonuses and step increases for years of service up to 20 years, but nothing beyond that.)
Two, reduce software purchases by $75,000.
Three, a $43,500 reduction in transportation expenses taken from technology, a bus driver doubling as a mechanic to avoid hiring another driver, and ambulance service donated free of charge for the year.
Four, reducing the bus garage construction budget by $50,000.
Deputy Director of Finance Cindy Latham found an additional reduction in estimated expenditures totaling $50,000.
School Board Member Chris Guess voted against the $500,000 in budget cuts.
“I resent the implication that we’ve been flippant with our money,” he said. “If we continue to receive a lesser percent of property taxes, we’ll be looking at more cuts next year.”
At the July 2 Finance Committee meeting, the school board budget was rejected a third time by a vote of 4-3, with Barbara Finney, David Eldridge, David Alexander and Johnny Woodall voting against the budget. The Finance Committee meets again Monday, July 8 to review all the budgets before sending the budget to the full county commission meeting on July 15.