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Sullivan County budget process underway

J.H. Osborne • May 14, 2020 at 5:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The Sullivan County Commission’s Budget Committee got its first official look on Wednesday at the county school system’s funding request for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The school system’s budget proposal totals $85.6 million and is balanced with $5.3 million from the system’s fund balance (and $650,000 from other reserves). Of the remaining $79.6 million in revenue needed to fund the system’s budget, the largest contribution would come from the state ($40.1 million). Local taxes would contribute $34.96 million, including $22 million from the county property tax rate and $11.81 million from sales tax revenues.

For development of the proposed budget, the system estimated sales tax revenues will drop by 5% due to COVID-19. County Mayor Richard Venable and Accounts and Budgets Director Larry Bailey said that seems a reasonable starting point.

“I have no idea if that will be accurate ... you’re really just shooting in the dark on that,” said Ingrid Deloach, business manager for the Sullivan County Department of Education.

Venable asked County Commissioner Colette George, who also serves on the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen, what figure the city had used, in developing a city budget, to estimate COVID-19’s impact on sales tax revenues.

George said 8%.

The county school system’s total budget request is about $2.4 million more than its approved budget for the current year. It includes a 2% raise for employees and money to create a new position for a public information officer. It also eliminates $800,000 in other local revenues (from the county), reflecting the system’s recognition this year’s loss of average daily attendance (in the split between county and city school systems) did not meet the 1% threshold set in a compromise last fall between the school system and the county commission. The system’s budget does, however, again estimate county schools will lose 2% of average daily attendance funding in the coming school year. Deloach said that would equal about 250 students, but noted the loss is hard to calculate because the final equation can only be reached after it is known how much each system, including those in Bristol and Kingsport, loses over the course of the year.

The county’s budget committee will next meet at 3 p.m. on May 20.

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