published Friday, April 22nd, 2011

Schools spending freeze suggested

by Adam Crisp

Hamilton County school board member Rhonda Thurman will ask the board to freeze all spending, including new hires and position transfers, until the system has a clearer picture of its finances.

The last-minute proposal during a Thursday meeting wasn’t considered because Thurman didn’t place the measure on the agenda properly, but she said she will present the item again during meetings next week.

“We just need to stop, to freeze everything, and look at what we’re spending,” Thurman said.

Board of Education members are supposed to present a budget to the Hamilton County Commission during the second week of May, but Thurman thinks that deadline looks increasingly unlikely. A continuation budget might be necessary, she said.

“There may be five of them [board members] who will vote for the budget, but I’m not one of them,” Thurman said. “We can present a continuation budget and wait until September or October before we commit.”

Board members last week were presented with $14.3 million in suggested budget cuts to balance next year’s budget. A vote on those proposals could happen Thursday.

Thurman’s proposal presumably could be considered at that meeting.

Board member Jeffrey Wilson said Thurman’s proposal was a “bit rash.”

“A total freeze has negative ripples across the system,” he said after the meeting.

All large expenditures come before the board anyway, and questionable expenses simply could be voted down, he said.

Some board members supported Thurman’s effort. David Testerman and Mike Evatt said some level of spending freeze seems prudent.

“I think we really have to look at whether it’s necessary to limit some hires and other things right here at the end of the school year,” Testerman said.

Assistant Superintendent Ray Swofford cautioned against a total freeze because the system may not get the best teachers if it waits to make new hires.

“Because of cuts, we are staffed tightly in elementary education,” Swofford said. “But we have some experience with the type of hires that we get when we hire after June, so I hope the board will take that into consideration if we decide to freeze.”

The board is set to discuss its budget Thursday, but no time was set.

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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