The Cannon County Schools and the Cannon County Commission were able to resolve some of their issues over the school's budget for the current fiscal year during their meeting Thursday night at the courthouse.
Director of Schools Barbara Parker requested to be on the agenda for the commission meeting because it was not clear to the school board, which she represents, what tax rate the commission had approved for schools.
The two bodies were also at odds over whether the school system was going to make a contribution to the education debt fund this year. The commission's budget had them making a $250,000 payment this year. The school's budget had zero.
"I represent the school system and all 400 employees," Parker said. "I feel being the largest employer in Cannon County ... and I come to these meetings and I hear a lot of discussion about we need jobs in Cannon County. "Well the school system provides a lot jobs for Cannon Countians and over 80 percent of our workforce lives in Cannon County and we want to keep these people in Cannon County and we want to keep them owning property and them to be able to support their families. So in supporting the Cannon County School system it's my obligation to stand up for my employees.
"Secondly, I am the representative of the school board. According to board policy I am the chief spokesperson for the school system," Parker continued.
"My first question is, and I set through that last (July 20) meeting, maybe I missed it, maybe the people sitting behind me were talking so loud I didn't hear the appropriation, but I never heard what portion of the tax rate was allocated to schools. So there has been some confusion on our part because of a letter we received stating one amount and a phone call and a personal conversation ... that had another. So that is my first question ... what is the school's allocation of the 2017-18 tax rate?"
Parker said the school's presented a budget with an 88-cent tax rate to the budget committee and "we were never called back when you all thought you weren't going to give us 88 cents."
Commissioner Russell Reed pointed out that while some commissioners thought they had allocated 84 cents of the $2.89 tax rate to schools, the actual amount was 85 cents.
"The commission passed a budget of 85 cents for the schools, according to the budget paperwork here," Reed said. "We passed a budget of 85 cents for the schools. Regardless of what the intent was, it was voted on and it was passed, by a 7-2 vote. Me and Mr. (Glenn) Steakley was the only ones that voted no on it. So you all passed an 85 cent school budget."
County Executive Mike Gannon confirmed that the budget the county submitted to the Tennessee Comptroller's Office had an 85 cent allotment for schools, the same amount the system received for the 2016-17 fiscal year.
The school system also scored a victory of sorts with respect to its education debt service payment. The commissioners vote to relieve them of that obligation for the remainder of the debt.
Gannon said even without a contribution from the school system to education debt service, the note can be paid off sooner than it needs to be.
"It's got to be paid off by 2026," Gannon said. "At that time, $40 of the $50 wheel (tax) sticker will come off. The way the figures look, even without the $250,000 (from the schools), we can pay this off in five years.
"With the $100,000 a year coming out of county general fund debt service to school debt service, there is about $800,000 at year going in total, we owe $5.3 million, we can pay it off in four to five years instead of nine years," Gannon said. "What that would do is give the taxpayers a $40 break on each car that he owns, because the day it's paid off, the wheel sticker stops, all except $10 of that.
"What I want to see is it paid off as quickly as possible because like somebody here said the tax (rate) had gone up a little bit the last couple of years, and that would give them somewhat of a break. We can do that in five years, even without the $250,000."
Although the commission and school board were able to resolve some of their money issues at the meeting, the school board must now finalize their budget for the current fiscal year, and the commission has to approve it.
"What will have to happen is even after this meeting is that next Thursday the school board meets to vote on our budget to present to you, so you all will have to go into recess so that we can come back and present a budget," Parker said.
The commission went into recess session, and will meet later this month to try and finalize the school's budget.