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Knox Co. school budget takes $3M hit after state funding reduced | News

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Knox Co. school budget takes $3M hit after state funding reduced
News, Schools
Knox Co. school budget takes $3M hit after state funding reduced

by Mike Donila, WBIR

The Knox County School system will get $2.9 million less than it initially expected in state funding, according to new estimates.

That now means Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett will revise his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year to reflect the drop.

"While it is unfortunate that the state's BEP funding estimates are being further reduced from their initial projections, Knox County must not fall into the trap of using one-time money to pay for ongoing expenses," the mayor said.

According to new estimates, funding from the Basic Education Program, or BEP, dropped $2.9 million because of lower than expected revenues to an overall $176.67 million.

"If these assumptions hold for the next two months, we'll really have to go back and take a hard look at our budget again, at this late date. After the Board of Education adopted a budget, after the mayors proposed a budget, and that's really not the way you want to go about doing this. So it's challenging; the timing of going about this at this late date," said Dr. Jim McIntyre, Knox County Schools superintendent.

One school board member says it's the timing of this decision that's most unfair.

"You know this last minute tweak to the formula is not only going to undermine our budget, but is undermining this whole education improvement effort in our state," said board member Indya Kincannon.

Other school systems also will see a decrease.

State BEP funding along with revenues from property and sales taxes make up the brunt of the school system's budget.

This year, Burchett proposed an overall $730 million spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which included $427.8 million to cover the school system's portion.

That could now change.

"The mayor will propose an amendment and we'll have to figure it out from there," Knox County Commission Chairman Brad Anders said. "To add back the money you will need a revenue source and we don't know where that revenue source would be until we have more discussions."

The Knox County Commission on Monday will talk about the mayor's budget. The school board and the commission will also hold a joint work session on Tuesday to talk more about it.

The school system already was already expected to ask the commission to increase the mayor's spending plan by additional $4.55 million, which they initially requested to cover a 1.8 percent raise for teachers.

School Board member Kim Severance said she hopes officials can come up with a solution to close the gap.

"We've done a lot of good," she said. "We don't want to go backwards. I understand that this is a really, really big challenge."

She added: "There is going to have to be some creative financing. The mayor has been very good at that. I have to give him credit for that. Hopefully, we can work together to find something to fill that gap."

The commission will vote on the overall plan on May 27.

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