Lenoir City Board of Education on Friday will look to approve its budget for the 2019-20 school year.
The budget includes a projected $21.6 million in revenue, while expenditures tally $22.4 million from the General Purpose School Fund.
The board will need to dip into reserves for another year that could bring the fund balance down to $4.3 million by the end of 2019-20.
“We need to maintain a pretty good fund balance for cash flow purposes,” Jeanie Mowery, Lenoir City Schools business manager, said. “With us being a school system and a lot of our money coming from property taxes, the bulk of that money doesn’t show up until February, March, that timeframe. So in order to keep things running we like to ensure we maintain a good cash flow so we don’t have to put things off. ... We just want to be sure that we’re maintaining a good fund balance so that we don’t have operational difficulties and so that we do have the ability to respond to any kind of revenue shortfall or one-time or emergency item that comes up.”
One-time or emergency expenditures have been a factor in the fund balance’s reduction, she said.
Mowery said during the weekend’s Lenoir City BOE retreat, the ending fund balances for 2017-18 and 2018-19 are $5.57 million and $5.11 million, respectively. Mowery believes reserves remain in good shape, but she doesn’t want to see it go much lower.
“It’s just where we are,” Glenn McNish, BOE member, said. “We’ve got expenses keep going up and one of the things that has hurt us in the past — of course, this year it was back up, but your budgets reflect on the previous year. Last year we were about 50 to 60 students less than we normally have and when you figure $6,000 per student you’re talking about a $300,000 deficit last year that we had, which is reflected on this year’s budget, which will be reflected the following year on the previous year’s budget.
“I think that’s the situation with a lot of school districts, be it Lenoir City or Loudon County or even the surrounding ones,” he added. “That’s why you have rainy day funds so that when you do have some shortfalls and deficits like that, you have a backup plan where you can cut the budget or get it back up to where it needs to be.”
For the 2017-18 school year, Mowery noted a reduction in student enrollment amounted to a loss of $247,669 in county funding. The school district saw an increase in student enrollment for 2018-19, but it wasn’t enough to gain back all the funds previously lost.
“If we keep it in check right now we’re doing OK,” Rick Chadwick, BOE chairman, said. “I don’t like to go into fund balance at all. ... As long as we don’t have to do that every year we’ll be fine and I don’t want to do that every year.”
Chadwick believes the budget is sound and includes a 2 percent raise for staff.
The raise increases total pay for teachers by $287,000 over 2018-19, Mowery said.
“I’m just glad we could give all the employees a 2 percent raise and we’re doing some few capital projects, nothing major,” Chadwick said. “We’re putting on some roofing at the high school that was needed. We’re doing some additional painting at the elementary school. We’re doing some bathroom renovations at the high school. But overall I thought it was a good, sound budget.”
Mowery said other expenditures of note include replacing one small bus for about $53,000, upgrading the district’s servers for $25,500, replacing a portion of the Lenoir City High School roof for an estimated $283,000 and adding another English Language Learner teacher for potentially as high as $64,587, including benefits.
McNish pointed to technology as on ongoing expenditure for the district.
“Every year there’s something new that you have to buy and a lot of the textbook expense that we have, a lot of those folks are — you could buy textbooks and use them for five or six years and now they’re changing them every year when you have to pretty much do it on a yearly basis,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is get away from textbooks altogether and do everything online, which again gets back to the technology expense. Something every year new, new and improved.”
Board members will meet at 11 a.m. Friday at Lenoir City Schools central office downtown.