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Schools' proposed budget to get more revenue

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

By Clint Confehr

Senior Staff Writer

Faced with leaking roofs over several schools, Marshall County's Budget Committee is recommending county commissioners add $300,000 to the school budget, although the Board of Education had sought much more.

To beat an Oct. 1 state deadline so the county won't miss a monthly payment of Basic Education Program (BEP) funds, the school board is holding an emergency meeting at 10:15 a.m. Friday so the county budget office may schedule a public hearing on Sept. 11 and a budget can be adopted on Sept. 24.

The unanimous decision by the budget committee on Monday night calls into question whether county commissioners can create a capital budget from which money could be allocated for projects such as courthouse improvements, sheriff's patrol cars and ambulances.

"The problem is we're going to have to borrow money" to start the capital fund, Commissioner Mickey King said, explaining the revenue "is not coming in at one time."

A short-term loan from a bank is proposed in anticipation of tax revenue being received later. It's a tax anticipation note, something Marshall County hasn't done, according to county Budget Director Freda Terry.

Additional funds were realized this year in conjunction with the reappraisal of Marshall County properties. The state Board of Equalization recommended a certified property tax rate of $3.22 per $100 of assessed value. That's 13 cents more than the current rate of $3.09.

The certified tax rate is supposed to represent about the same overall revenue as the tax rate it replaces, after adjusting for changes in property values from a reappraisal.

But commissioners didn't want to adjust the school portion of the old rate to reflect those changes. They proposed continuing the provide the school system the same portion of the property tax rate, using the 13-cent difference between the $3.09 and the new $3.22 rate to fund a capital budget rather than distributing it among the existing funds.

School board members contend that doesn't meet the state-required Maintenance of Effort (MOE) for county support of schools. MOE is required by Tennessee lawmakers who increased state funding of local schools, but didn't want local leaders to reduce their funding of schools.

Marshall County schools anticipate receiving $23,464,000 in BEP payments from the state during the 2012-13 fiscal year, Schools Budget Director Janet Wiles said Tuesday. They arrive in 10 monthly payments. Without a county budget in place by Oct. 1, the state can withhold the monthly BEP check.

The total of the proposed county school budget is about $37.6 million in expenditures, Wiles said. New revenue is less than that, but $2 million is to come from reserves. Reserves have money available largely because the school board refrained from spending all of the money from the federal government jobs bill.

The proposed school budget anticipates approximately $350,000 more from sales tax revenue, a figure school board members call unrealistic.