"We are to the point of cutting services to children."
Those were the words of Cannon County School's Director Barbara Parker as she reviewed the General School Budget request with the Cannon County Budget Committee Thursday night at the Cannon County Courthouse.
Before the Committee reviewed the School Budget Request, Cannon County Trustee Wayne Prater approached the committee and let them know that he went through his budget again and found some areas in which he recommended the Committee cut to save even more money.
One line item was Dues and Memberships in the amount of $383.00 The line item is shared by five different county offices for a total of $1,915.00. Prater stated that he got around to asking the various offices about this particular line item and found out it dealt with dues for being a member of the County Officials Association Of Tennessee.
Most of the State Trustees felt they could run their offices without being a member of this organization. As a result Prater recommended the line item be canceled. The Committee agreed and this cut $1,915 out of the budget.
Other cuts Prater recommended to the Committee included in the line items of office supplies. The office spent only $2,379 of the budgeted $2500. Mr. Lafevers believes the office can get buy on $2,000 for the new fiscal year.
Line item of printing stationary and forms were budgeted last year at $1,000; however the trustee's office didn't use any money designated in that line item so he felt that he could cut the budgeted amount back to $500. Postage could also be cut back to $500 after this year with the trustee's office spending $4,173.34 out of $4,200. They won't need as much postage this year as they did last year He recommended that the committee cut the postage $500 to $3,700.
Maintenance Agreement line item is for the local government computer system. The company has sent them a statement for this fiscal year. The Company is responsible however to fix and maintain the computer system. As a result of software upgrades in the system, Prater pointed out that the cash journals, receiving books and other books will no longer have to be bought as the software will cover these different books and journals with a complete back up of the system to ensure the safety of these records.
The Legal Notices Recording and Court Costs line item, the trustee's office only spent $275 out of $1,200 budgeted. Most of the costs incurred comes from running notices regarding the people delinquent on their taxes. The trustee's office chose not to run the names of the people in the paper as there was a chance that a mistake could be made. The County Clerk and Master could run the names and collect fees instead of the County Trustee.
All in all the county trustee took off $2,900 just of their budget alone.
The cutting continued with the School Budget Request as Director of Cannon County's Schools Barbara Parker presented the General School Budget to the Committee.
Parker reminded the committee that last year the school had to go into reserves to fund the budget and in order for the State of Tennessee to approve their budget the system would have to have three percent of the total budget in their reserve fund as it is used for running expenses.
After looking at various options which included asking for 24 cents to get the reserve fund back up to the three percent and balance it out, asking for $1.11 of the tax rate to get the schools reserve fund out of the whole period or just go through and do some cuts.
As a result cuts won out as there were many line items cut from last year's budget. The budget was cut in the line item of equipment and office supplies as far as the fiscal consultant would let them. Other cuts meant the Schools were to the point of cutting services to children.
"We're no longer just saying we'll cut out equipment, office supplies, a new bus, a new roof or any new construction," Parker stated. "We are way past that point now with this budget to the point of what we cut goes to the classroom, so you're taking away from children."
Parker told the committee that the state has mandated a 1.6 percent increase on the state portion of the teacher's salary. The state is covering $83,000 of the salary and the school system will need about $105,000 because there is no matching in that and there are several positions over what the Basic Education Program pays for.
Based on the reaction at the middle school forums over the last few months, several people in attendance stated that they wanted the small schools and are willing to pay for it so the budget was based upon keeping the grammar schools fully staffed.
Four high school teachers resigned or retired for various reasons. There was a music teacher, English Teacher, Science and Spanish Teacher. Parker looked at the number of students in the years ahead and realized that they didn't have to fill those three positions, with the only position being filled would be that one of the Spanish Teacher. Three employees have left the central office during the last school year. The duties of those employees were divided up amongst other employees at the Central Office.
So when the Teacher Salary line $7,110,116.00 includes the three teachers cut but because of the 1.6% required increase, because of the automatic step ups from the negotiated contract and there are salary portions of that contract based on years experience teachers can get a dollar amount increase every year up to 20 years.
Those over 20 years would get a certain supplement based on percentage every year until retirement. If the local asked for a 3 percent increase and got a three percent in salary step up, then those over 20 years of experience would get that three percent also onto that supplement.
The line item was just left even because of the required increases there even cutting three teachers.
The bottom line next year predicted $460,771 around 3 percent of the total budget and the schools hope the State will approve the budget.
The School System is asking for an amount equal to four cents and what that will do is to get the Schools reserves at a three percent level.
Parker said the Committee doesn't have to give four cents on the tax rate as there are a lot of line items where the Committee can increase like interest in penalties, local sales tax, TVA revenue sharing instead of a property tax increase.
The Schools have been paying $250,000 off of debt services every year. They are now to a point where they can't afford to pay that. Parker said that if the schools were relieved of that debt, then that would cover what we might need for the other.
The first page requests am increase in property tax to reflect the four cents although that's what the school is asking the committee to fund.
Another thing about funding a budget, Parker pointed out, Maintenance of Effort is required. The Schools have not actually gotten all the money that has been promised in the budget as revenue from the county during the fiscal year.
Committee Member Kevin George started asking questions. In the line item of County Property Tax. 2010-2011 was budgeted revenue of $1,740,398. 2011-2012 budgeted revenue is $1,865,512 which is a $125,000 increase.
George noted that it was more than 4 cents and it was more like 6.4 cents. Parker thought the number was based on the figure that the schools are receiving for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. Parker said that they are not through operating on the budget for the 201-2011 fiscal year and won't be through operating on the budget until in July. They are expecting the current property tax to be more than the current $1,740,398 that was estimated this year.
George also asked Parker if she knew how much money the School System needed to get their budget approved by the state. Parker replied she needed to have $79,808.
Committee Member Clint Higgins asked about the increase in salaries. Parker said that all pay increases are mandated 1.6% and their step up. Then Higgins asked about travel budgets. Parker explained that it includes travel from school to school, any conferences, and overnight stay.
Higgins said that should be a part of the salary since it's not a hourly position. Higgins asked about cutting the Teacher Assistant for the Vocational Education Program. Then he asked about the $20,000 cut for custodial personnel. Parker explained that there were two custodians in the school system that either did not show up for work, or a substitute custodian. They have not filled those positions.
After being asking about the travel line item of $14,000.00. Parker stated that 8 people use the travel line item expenses. Because of the mandated pay increase of 1.6% for the teachers. Parker said that it was not fair to give the certified employees and an increase and not give the non-certified employees an increase.
So the budget also included a 3% increase for all non-certified employees. Committee member George stated that the rest of the county employees aren't getting a 3% pay increase and asked what the budget looked like without the 3% increase.Parker said she will recalculate the numbers for the next meeting.
Bus Drivers did not get budgeted a 3% raise. County Bus Drivers get a salary in 5 year increments. Contracted Bus Drivers get paid by the seat and mileage. All figures were kept the same as the 2010-2011 budget. Increases were given in the line items of vehicles, while the budget was cut in the line items of tires and tubes and other charges.
Parker went through some of the grants the School System has received. Some of the grants are based on the school system spending the money first and getting a reimbursement. The fuel line item was talked about. With fuel prices forecasted to drop down, the committee asked if they could trim some of the request on that line item. Parker said they will take a look at it as they are not even finished using the line item for 2010-2011 fiscal year.
The Committee ended the budget request review of the school system by setting a July 5th date with the Cannon County Schools to bring back the newer figures of what the budget would look like without the increase.
Last week the committee had questioned why there was around a $200,000 difference from what the Cannon County Ambulance Service's revenue vs. the expenses were.
Several surrounding counties were getting different reimbursements from Medicare and other insurance programs. Cannon County Ambulance Service Director Ricky Cope explained that Medicare when it comes to base rate, everyone gets the same. Cannon County is considered Urban because people drive through Woodbury to Murfreesboro to work and as a result the Ambulance Service only gets $4.00 a mile through Medicare costs.
Most counties have a bigger volume of calls, charge more for their transports. Increase in rates is possible except that it takes a while to get everything processed especially through Medicare and other insurance companies. Some companies only pay a percentage.
The Committee asked that since there was a lesser number of calls, if the ambulance service could reduce personnel. It was pointed out by Cope that they can't do that due to the fact that the ambulance makes longer hospital runs to Rutherford and Davidson County. Volume of transports and runs involving Medicare are the two biggest hinders of the Ambulance Department bringing in the amount of revenue vs the expenses.
Last week the Committee talked about denying the budget requested increase of the guards line item for the Cannon County Jail. Cannon County Sheriff Darrell Young wants almost $60,000 to add two additional guards for the jail. Sheriff Young invited the Budget Committee to come take a look at the jail operations and see how being understaffed effects the jail system.
Sheriff Young says the need for these two additional jailers is a safety issue. The jail is overcrowded and if something happens, Sheriff Young says, and the prisoners sue, he feels they are going to win. They are currently pulling in employees from other departments to help supervise the jail.
County Commissioner and Woodbury Assistant Police Chief Police Kevin Mooneyham was in attendance and was asked his thoughts. Mooneyham responded, "When that jail was built back in the 1990's it was a band-aid. We done just what we had to do to get by and it's never been staffed the way it should have been staffed from the get go." Mooneyham then said, "He (Young) needs the help!"
Sheriff Young reiterated his invitation to come visit the jail and see what the staff have to go through. Mooneyham then said, "The first place we as a commission always want to look to cut is public service. That's the most needed thing there is." Mooneyham also added that public service workers are the first ones that people call in emergency situation. The Committee will talk more about the line item at a later time.
The next Budget Committee meeting is Thursday, June 30th at 6:00 p.m. at the Cannon County Courthouse.