The Wilson County Schools Board of Education got a look at the preliminary 2020-21 budget Saturday morning, and it was not a pretty picture.
If adopted as presented, it would mean the elimination of 41 teaching positions, 95 teacher assistant positions, all coaching stipends, all mentoring stipends, textbook purchases and the adult high school.
“This is the hardest budget I’ve ever recommended to a director of schools in my 28 years,” said Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall during the livestreamed budget work session. “This is fixing to get very complicated and serious.”
With the county mandating a “status quo” budget from the school district, which means that the district can expect no additional funds from the county, plus the effects of coronavirus pandemic and a state funding formula that requires more and more of the budget come from local sources, the district is facing a serious funding shortfall.
Hall said the school district’s share of property tax revenue is expected to increase less than 1%, sales tax revenue is already down $800,000-900,000 because of the pandemic-related business closures, and there is no telling what will happen the rest of the year. Another factor is the state’s Basic Education Program funding formula, which reduces the amount a district gets based on what a county can afford to pay. With Wilson County rated a relatively wealthy county, it’s getting proportionally fewer state dollars every year.
Coupled with flat revenue is the increased expenditures without a corresponding increase in local dollars.
“For the record, we received no additional local increase in funding to open Springdale Elementary, Gladeville Middle School and Green Hills (High School),” Hall said.
The proposed cuts equal the about $10.5 million needed to balance the budget. And even with the cuts, the district will again need to dip into its reserves to the tune of about $3.2 million. The preliminary general purpose budget totals just under $160 million, compared with about $153 million for the current budget year.
Most of the increase, $5.2 million, will come from the 0.25% increase in the local sales tax approved by voters last November. Even then, Hall is recommending that increase be doled out over time to make sure it actually materializes.
While the 95 teaching assistant positions would be cut across the district, the 41 teaching positions come from the high school level. It would be five from the new Green Hills High School, 11 from Wilson Central, 12 from Mt. Juliet and 13 from Lebanon, Hall said.
He added that the recommendations are designed to have a minimal impact on the classroom and district overall.
“This has been a struggle, not only personally but professionally, to get to his point,” Hall said. “I don’t make these recommendations lightly.”
Saturday’s presentation was to give board members a first look at the budget. There was another budget work session Tuesday. Both sessions as well as budget documents are available on the district’s website, wcshools.com.
“A lot of what we’re faced with today is what we’ve faced the last few years, is stuff we’ve put off because of no tax increase,” said board Chairman Larry Tomlinson. “We’re where we’re at today not just because of the pandemic, not because of what we’ve suffered from the tornado, but because of status quo budgets.”