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White Board Of Education Faces $3.1 Million Budget Deficit

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
White Board Of Education Faces $3.1 Million Budget Deficit

The White County Board of Education approaching a budget decision Thursday with a $3.1 million deficit in its new fiscal year budget.

Director Kurt Dronebarger told the School Board during a work session Tuesday the district usually budgets to save money each year, but this year is a “terrible storm” of different financial problems facing the district. Dronebarger said issues include less tax revenue coming into the county, cuts in federal funding, and problems with how the TISA program works.

He said the whole TISA system is still a very new program that the district does not feel secure with.

“For example, they changed some coding for our students in the middle of the year that drastically changed the amount of funding that we get for economically disadvantaged students,” Dronebarger said. “There was no warning, they just changed the coding, and it changed it to several, a couple of a hundred thousand dollars to our district.”

Dronebarger said he recommends taking the deficit out of the school’s approximately $15 million general fund so they can either figure out a way to solve the problems for next year or plan ahead for what programs should be cut. He said there are multiple different programs that could be cut to save costs now, but all of the realistic options would have a strong negative impact on the district.

“I’ve given a list of things that I thought were, you know, kind of above and beyond to make our program run well, but there’s nothing on there that I think is just fluff,” Dronebarger said. “There’s nothing on there that I don’t think wouldn’t hurt. There’s nothing I there that I don’t think people wouldn’t miss, that our students wouldn’t miss, and our teachers wouldn’t miss.”

The board will meet to approve an official budget Thursday.

Dronebarger said another issue facing this next year’s budget is the end of ARP and ESSER funding that the district has relied on for the past several years.

“We had several grants and grant funds, such as ARP and ESSER, that were paying in the past couple of years, that we were paying positions for, that those grant funds have run out, and so the GP (General Purpose fund) is picking those up now,” Dronebarger said.

He said he is lobbying with legislators in hopes to increase the district’s funding for next year. When discussing what could be cut back to aid with the budget, Dronebarger said next year’s budget plans to spend extra money on Pre-K programs, an assistant principal position at Findlay Elementary, a second school resource officer for the high school, and the Warrior Academy.

“I would argue that we would be in bad shape if we got rid of Warrior Academy because our graduation rate would be lower than state average, and so I can make an argument that that’s a pretty valuable program,” Dronebarger said.

Board Member Jayson McDonald said he has been on the board for ten years and this is the first time he has had to discuss cutting any salaries or programs.

“Governor Lee has said he wants the starting salary across the state to be $50,000 by the year 2026, correct? They’re cutting our funds,” McDonald said. “How do they expect us to get our teacher salaries to that point if they’re going to cut our funds mid-year $200,000?”


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