​School Board Continues Budget Review

Discusses Townsend School’s Future

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer
At the June 6 Franklin County School Board of Education meeting, Director of Schools Amie Lonas requested that all departments heads make budgets for the 2017–18 school years as lean as possible, projecting a $2.2 million shortfall. The board also discussed deeding Townsend School to the South Central Human Resource Agency for a Head Start program and replacing Franklin County High School’s storm damaged scoreboard with a Jumbotron.
“I don’t want the budget cuts to affect programming,” Lonas stressed. “We’ve downsized the teaching staff by not filling the positions of six teachers who are leaving,” she said. Some teachers retired, she explained, and in other cases, the school system didn’t renew the contracts of teachers no longer needed. The state required the school system to add another English Language Learner instructor and FCHS will add a part-time Career and Technical Education instructor (CTE).
The school system lost funding for one Pre-K classroom due to a drop in enrollment. “The Pre-K program is no longer self-supporting,” Lonas said. The $90,000 loss in revenue will require the school system to contribute $25,000 to the program to staff the 11 Pre-K classrooms.
Citing another necessary expense item, Lonas said, “Beginning in the 2018–19 school year, middle school students will be tested online. All students in grades five through eight will have Chromebooks next year.”
Lonas extended “kudos” to the CTE Department for receiving a Carl Perkins IV Reserve Grant. The $62,000 award earmarks $50,000 for equipment and $12,000 for certification testing.
Lonas said the projected budgeted shortfall for the 2016–17 year, $1.3 million, will likely be less than expected meaning an estimated $70,000 could be returned to the fund balance the school system holds in reserve to meet budget shortfalls.
Franklin County Deputy Director of Finance Cindy Latham said the school system also anticipated receiving an additional $200,000 because the delinquent property tax rate had decreased from 3.5 percent to 2 percent.
The final figures on property tax revenue won’t be known until the school system receives information on the reappraisal value on the value of the penny. Lonas hopes to have the information by June 15. The school board will hold a special called meeting on June 22. The board needs to present the budget for review by the county commission finance committee by June 30.
Reporting on a request from the South Central Human Resource Agency (SCHRA) to locate a Head Start program at Townsend School, Lonas said the Adult Education Program and Campora Family Resource Center were moving to the Franklin County Annex making elementary school basketball the only remaining program at Townsend. SCHRA asked the school system to deed the building to the agency. SCHRA would be responsible for maintenance and insurance, Lonas said, and the school system could continue to use the gym. The Townsend deed would revert to the school system if the SCHRA chose to discontinue offering community programs at the school.
“I would support that,” said Sewanee school board representative Adam Tucker, echoing the sentiments of other board members.
Stanley Bean, Director of Student Support Services, said a storm did irreparable damage to the scoreboard at FCHS, and the sponsoring host, Coca Cola suggested the school consider purchasing a Jumbotron. Coca Cola provided the current scoreboard and is under contract to maintain it.
Bean said sponsors would pay for the Jumbotron, estimated cost $150,000—“It wouldn’t cost the school system anything. I already have three sponsors, including Coca Cola, committed to cover half the cost.” The maintenance contract with Coca Cola would continue.
“We can use it to sell ads and create revenue,” Bean pointed out. “The revenue generated would go to support all sports,” Bean stressed, “not just football.”
The board’s next regular meeting is June 12. The board is expected to discuss appointing an interim director to replace Lonas whose resignation will be effective June 30.