BOE budget

RUTLEDGE – The Grainger County Board of Education (BOE) had to reconsider its budget after State pay raises were cut by Governor Bill Lee. 

Director of Schools Dr. James Atkins said he was scheduled to attend a budget committee meeting Tuesday, June 9 before Lee announced he would be removing a two-percent pay raise from the State budget. Atkins said the removal of the pay raise affected Grainger County BOE’s revenues. Prior to Lee’s announcement, a three-percent pay raise had been approved by the board. Atkins said he had designed a budget with a zero-percent pay raise. 

In addition to the loss of pay raise, Atkins said County Mayor Mike Byrd recently contacted him about the Grainger County School System budget. Byrd said he had talked with former Director of Schools and current Testing Supervisor Edwin Jarnagin in 2019 about decreasing the school system’s budget by two to three pennies and charging it for garbage pickup, which will cost approximately $35,000, the same amount one penny will bring in revenue. 

Atkins said he decreased the budget by $70,000 to account for the loss of two pennies. He said while the County Commission cannot typically touch the school system’s fund balance, it can decrease the funding the school system will receive for FY 2020-21 due to the loss of enrollment seen by Grainger County School System for the 2020-21 school year. Atkins said Grainger County School System saw a drop in enrollment of 104 students. 

Atkins said the drop in enrollment allowed the school system to lose “a few hundred thousand dollars” from the State in addition to the drop in contribution from the County Commission from local taxes. He said the school system will have to take $589,000 out of the fund balance to balance the FY 2020-21 budget with the zero-percent pay raise.

“I made sure I informed Mr. Byrd that this will adversely affect the school systems because there’s no way that you can cut funds like that without adversely affecting the school system, and I will most definitely share that with the budget committee,” said Atkins. 

Atkins was scheduled to be in attendance at the budget committee meeting Tuesday, June 23.

“I am fearful that this time next year, the State’s going to have some financial lows that they’re dealing with like they are right now, and there’s a possibility of BEP not getting full funding. If that was to happen, then it could be bleak,” said Atkins. 

A motion was made by board member Larry Turley to accept the budget as presented to the board. Board member Marcus Long seconded. The motion passed with a 9-1 vote, with board member Derek Williams voting against the motion. 

In other business the board approved:

• A grant for $1,500 from The Dairy Alliance for milk and juice coolers; and

• a contract with Helton and Associates for air quality management.