A Wilson County Budget Committee meeting Thursday featured a lively discussion centered on a request from Wilson County schools.
The school system had two budget amendment requests. The first, money to replace a bus that had been totaled by the insurance company and startup funds for the new Watertown Middle School, was approved unanimously.
It was the second request that garnered a lot of debate.
The second amendment was presented to the committee at last month’s meeting.
The committee rejected funding for the deputy director positions, created by former Director of Schools Tim Setterlund and approved by the Wilson County Board of Education during discussions of the current fiscal year budget.
“This is one that you’ve seen before, to cover the cost of the deputy directors, it’s a line item transfer,” said Interim Director of Schools Mary Ann Sparks.
The transfer amounts to just under $119,000.
“This has been before us and disapproved. I think approving this for the purpose of being accepted by the state audit would be rewarding bad behavior,” said committee member Jerry McFarland.
“I think part of the problem has been solved,” committee chair Mike Justice said. “I get several calls a day. Some didn’t understand why it was back before us again. We’re responsible for correcting it now so that it doesn’t reflect bad on the school system that is there now.”
“During the budget process, last calendar year, did we not tell the previous school director we didn’t want to consider funding that this year, but we’d look at it next year, and he did it anyway,” McFarland said.
Sparks said the contracts for the deputy directors run through June 30 and then the positions would be considered for renewal.
“Their contracts go through June 30,” Sparks said. “Even if they do have a written contract, state law for non-tenured employees, they’re on a year-to-year basis because they’re certified employees.
“They are contracted through June 30 of this year, and they’re going to be there whether or not we have the funding for them, so are we punishing the wrong people?”
“I don’t think it’s fair that we punish you and the administration because of past tense. I think its about time we go ahead and move forward with this. We’ve just got to clean up the mess and keep moving,” said Annette Stafford, who is a member of the Budget Committee and serves as chair of the Education Committee.
Committee member Sara Patton agreed.
“I want this to be settled, however we’re going to do this, I just want it finished because it just keeps festering.”
After much debate, Justice made a motion regarding the amendment.
“I’m doing this under the worst duress I’ve ever been,” Justice said. “I do not agree with this whatsoever. I don’t agree it should be in front of us again. I make a motion that we transfer these funds, and then June 30 they do not fall under the continuation budget.”
Stafford seconded the motion, which ultimately passed by a 4-1 vote with McFarland voting no.
Other items from the meeting included an update on the county’s general fund.
“The general fund is projected at $2,268,631. In property taxes, we have received 103 percent of what we budgeted so far, and 90 percent of our total revenues that we budgeted are in so that’s fantastic,” said Finance Director Aaron Maynard.
Also approved at the meeting were:
• transfer of funds for reimbursement to WEMA from NRG per its contract.
• transfer from the general fund to WEMA maintenance and repair $25,000 for replacing a motor in a department engine.
• putting donations received and grant money from the state of Tennessee into the budget for the archives.
• an addition to the budget of grant funds from the state to lease voting machines by the Election Commission.
• a transfer from the fund balance into a construction fund to replace the roof on the Election Commission Office.
• a request from the county clerk’s office to put in funds from the data processing reserve to buy computers and printers.
• a transfer from the current property tax revenues in the trustee’s office to cover tax refunds. The transfer amounts to $30,000.
• a request from Joint Economic and Community Development Board Executive Director G.C. Hixson to consider a payment in lieu of taxes program for Project Fulfill.