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White County Schools Approves Budget With Defecit

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
White County Schools Approves Budget With Defecit

The White County School Board passed its general purpose school fund budget Thursday night despite a $3.1 million deficit.

Director of Schools Kurt Dronebarger called the year’s financial challenges a “perfect storm,” but believes the district can weather it by making sound and informed decisions going forward. He said cuts in federal and state funding and a lack of clarity with TISA money all played major roles. He said while he is disappointed, he takes responsibility.

“We’ve all sat in these meetings and listened to the budget reports saying that we’re on track, we’re on track,” Dronebarger said. “But as these things have come down the stretch and made changes, now we are at a time where we have to approve a budget and our choices are, either back up and regroup and approve a budget that’s going to give us time to make educated decisions or just start slashing things.”

The board also passed its cafeteria fund budget at an overage of some $380,000. Finance Director Chad Marcum said rising food prices is partially responsible for the deficit. He said while the overage is higher than normal, he does not expect it to reflect the actual numbers and believes the nutrition fund budget could even be balanced at year’s end.

Marcum said in 2023, that budget began at a $268,000 deficit, but some $93,000 was returned by the end of the fiscal year.

Dronebarger said he believes making major cuts for the sole purpose of approving a balanced general purpose school fund budget would be premature. He said tough decisions and potential cuts loom. He said after a year of TISA funding, he hopes the district gets a more accurate picture of what that financing mechanism will look like over the coming fiscal year.

“They gave us more money but then said, ‘Here’s where you have to spend it,’” Dronebarger said. “So, it wasn’t that we could just take it and put it into projects or other things.”

He said in the past year, the state has made two separate funding cuts out of the blue, both in excess of $200,000. He said the rising costs for conducting general district business has not helped either.

“I don’t want to be here,” Dronebarger said. “None of us want to be here, and I want to work really hard and make educated decisions to make sure that we’re not here in the future.”


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