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Should schools get more tax dollars, or should budget cuts be made?

Staff Report • Jun 11, 2012 at 4:37 PM

Officials of a number of local school systems are wrestling with budget shortfalls in the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Last week, the Johnson City Board of Education voted to use a portion of its fund balance to cover a projected shortfall in the new budget. As Press staff writer Madison Mathews reported on June 5, the move means the projected $64 million budget will be in the black if the City Commission agrees to fund the $350,000 needed to help replace the loss of Education Jobs funding.

The school board voted to use nearly $673,000 from its fund balance, which had been reserved to replace stimulus money. That amount will be added to the $2.2 million already budgeted from the fund balance that is being used to cover next year’s needs, bringing the total use of the fund balance to nearly $3 million.

Members of the Washington County Board of Education are also finding it difficult to balance their school system’s next budget. County school officials are looking at a deficit of $4.2 million in the new fiscal year. BOE members blame the shortfall on a loss of funding, including more than $5 million in federal funds and $600,000 in Basic Education Program dollars from the state. They also say state-mandated expenditures, including a 2.5 percent raise for certified personnel and support staff, totaling about $1.1 million, have also played a part in the deficit.

County officials say without cuts it would take a 30-cent property tax increase to fund all of the school system’s budget requests.

Washington County voters will decide a sales tax referendum on Aug. 7. Members of the city and county boards of education would like to see the local rate raised from the current 2.5 percent to the maximum 2.75 percent allowed under state law to fund local schools.

The last sales tax hike in Washington County was approved in May 1994.

We want to know what you think. Should local school systems be given more tax dollars, or should school administrators look to make budget cuts before asking for additional funding?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.

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