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Kingsport school board recommends more than $80.1 million general purpose budget

Rick Wagner • May 13, 2020 at 12:00 PM

KINGSPORT  — Kingsport’s school board voted 5-0 Tuesday to recommend a 2020-21 general purpose school budget of $80,123,500 and adopted a new teacher pay scale 4-1.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen still must approve the spending plan. However, the document already says the city’s transfer of $11,245,300 from 2019-20 will repeat without increase.

Because no new capital bonds will be issued, the Board of Education will retain architects to perform estimates for improvements on Sullivan North High School, Sevier Middle School and Dobyns-Bennett High School. North is to become the new Sevier Middle in 2021-22, and Sevier is to become the new Jackson Elementary when it closes.

Chief Finance Officer David Frye said the vote on the architects stopped short of full architectural design contracts since there is no money to do such capital projects in next year’s budget. Nevertheless, Chairwoman Carrie Upshaw said the decision would provide good estimates on project costs the BMA wants.

The BOE also approved a self-supporting school nutrition budget of $3,612,500, with lunch prices going up 5 cents across the board, a federal projects budget of $5,434,808 and a special projects budget of $1,088,695 for a total spending plan of $90,270,503.

SALES TAX REVENUES GOING DOWN?

During the meeting, held virtually because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the BOE approved a general purpose budget that projects a 2.5% drop in sales tax revenues. If the shortfall is greater, it would be borne by the unrestricted fund balance.

That’s the same place from which the budget is to take $100,000: $70,000 for additional custodial supplies needed for disinfecting and cleaning because of the pandemic and $30,000 for one-time stipends for 45 teachers who, because of the new pay scale, would otherwise receive no increase in pay this year.

On the revenue side, the more than $80.1 million-plus is a $1,737,100 increase over 2019-20. Sullivan County tax revenues are projected to inch up about 1%, and the additional funding from the city-county split of average daily attendance to go up one-fourth of a percent.

On the expenditure side, the cost of the new salary scale is to be $510,400 in switching from a single-lane system that required scoring a 4 or 5 on a 1-5 effectiveness scale to get healthy increases to a more traditional scale based on years of service and education.

WHAT IS NEW TEACHER PAY SCALE?

The new standard, Chief Human Resources Officer Jennifer Guthrie and Frye said, was unanimously recommended by a Compensation Committee, is simplified from the old, differentiated pay scale, easier to understand, and makes the system more competitive with others in the region.

Vice Chairman Eric Hyche voted against the switch due to concerns over accountability in the scale.

For a bachelor’s degree, the new scales goes from $44,300 for no experience to $77,100 for 30 years experience and a doctoral degree, with master’s and education specialist levels in between. 

Other added expenses included $184,300 to give classified employees a 2% step increase, three new teachers, one additional school nurse and two extra custodians, the latter because of coronavirus cleaning and disinfecting. 

HOW IS FEEDING PROGRAM GOING?

Budget amendments for 2019-20 included adding $200,000 in revenue from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the feeding project that provides breakfasts and lunches for anyone 18 and younger via drive-by pickups and bus deliveries. Of that money, $100,000 will go toward wages, $75,000 toward food and $25,000 for other expenses.

Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse said that since free meal distribution started March 17, the school system had provided more than 257,000 meals, an average of about 8,000 a day.

The price of lunches will go to $2.50 in elementary, $2.65 in middle and $2.75 in high schools, which board member Todd Golden said was about $1 a month, Moorhouse said was less than the original increases a federal formula indicated and member Jim Welch said was just a bit less expensive, allowing for inflation, than middle school meals in the 1960s. 

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