Education Committee discusses funding for Blount County schools | News
As budget season approaches, the Blount County Education Committee discussed this week the possibility of increased funding for schools in the county.
Blount County Commissioner Dodd Crowe reminded other committee commissioners that “Education” appears at the top of the county seal.
“If Blount County is really putting education first, like Maryville and Alcoa, if we are really making it a priority, we have to start now and say we want those pennies to be put there,” Crowe said. “Because if you wait for the meeting where we set the tax rate and fix the expenses, that doesn’t happen. It has already been built by a few people.
In previous meetings, Crowe has spoken of raising BCS to the state’s average per student spending level, but has struggled to identify that number with different sources calculating the number in various ways.
Commissioner Mike Akard pointed to other funding that may not be included in the per pupil expenditure figures.
“We are paying off a huge amount of school related debt, and if you don’t all understand that in the cost per student you are short selling the Blount County government,” Akard said, adding that the county had paid. . over $ 100 million in debt for school construction projects over the past eight years. “It’s money that we put into the schools when we built the schools. “
The Blount County Trustee’s Office website says 45% of the county’s property taxes go to education and 18% to debt for investment projects, over 90% of which is education-related.
“You have to remember that we are also paying off the debt of the city (the schools),” Crowe replied. “Every time we borrow money, we have to give them their share.”
By creating a separate capital improvements account that does not share revenue with Maryville and Alcoa schools, Fund 177, Crowe said the county has saved money by funding projects without borrowing.
Commissioner Robbie Bennett, Deputy Principal of Heritage High School, called Fund 177 a ‘game changer’ in helping BCS fund projects and Board of Education Chairman Robby Kirkland called it ” a boon “.
“We’re starting to reduce the problems, but we still don’t have our classrooms where they need to be for our kids,” School Board Member Debbie Sudhoff said, citing the classroom used for the arts as an example. culinary at Lycée du Patrimoine.
The County of Blount has the same property tax rate since fiscal year 2015-2016, or $ 2.47 per $ 100 of assessed value. Currently, 88 cents go to general county funding; 44 cents in debt service; 3 cents to general capital projects; 98 cents to schools, divided among schools in Blount County, Maryville City and Alcoa City; and 14 cents to BCS education capital projects.
During this week’s discussion Commissioner Brad Bowers said: “I have a strong belief that maybe we need to give the schools another dime or something.
Tap on sales tax?
While local schools have enjoyed higher than expected sales tax revenue in recent years, Kirkland suggested the county inject more sales tax revenue into the school system.
Kirkland said he would like BCS to make major progress on wages, noting that Knox County’s salary is now higher than that of Blount County. “We used to blow Knoxville,” he said.
Commissioner Dawn Reagan added to the discussion the state’s current effort to change its formula for funding schools. “In about three years you had better hang in there because anything can change… and I’m not sure that will change for the good,” she said.
When other commissioners declined to compare BCS funding to other local districts, Reagan, a BCS teacher, said they were being compared in terms of results.
Sudhoff said BCS needs to better promote its achievements.
“There is a misconception in our community about the value of Blount County schools,” she said. “If you’re new to this community and looking for a place to live, what’s the first thing a real estate agent tells you? Maryville City Schools is awesome. Did they ever say Blount County schools are awesome? “
“We’re going to have to invest some money in marketing, promoting and changing the appeal of our brand, if you will, in this county and outside of this county,” she said. “We have a great school system. I am very proud that my children graduated from schools in Blount County.