Signal Mountain Schools: Breakaway could result in nearly $2 million in additional funding

Signal Mountain Schools: Breakaway could result in nearly $2 million in additional funding

August 17th, 2017 by Kendi A. Rainwater in Local Regional News

Signal Mountain Middle High School would be one of the schools in a separate Signal Mountain Schools district.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

The committee investigating whether Signal Mountain can start its own school system is making final revisions to the new district's proposed budget and expected to release a final report in coming months.

The proposed budget suggests the mountain's three schools — Signal Mountain Middle/High, Thrasher Elementary and Nolan Elementary — could receive between $1.25 and $1.9 million in additional revenue if they break away from the county system, said Amy Wakim, a member of the committee.

During the committee's meeting Wednesday night, Wakim summarized several different budget scenarios, stating the district is estimated to receive about $20.7 million in revenue from county, state and federal dollars if a separate district is formed.

Critics of the mountain starting a separate district fear it will mean schools in the valley will receive less.

The seven-member committee decided last month, after a lengthy debate, to ask Hamilton County Schools to review the proposed budget.

Christie Jordan, assistant superintendent of finance for Hamilton County Schools, reviewed the budget and gave Wakim a list of comments and questions.

Wakim said Wednesday night she made some changes to the proposed budget based on the feedback.

"They are versed in schools and looked at what we'd done and gave us some constructive comments and responses regarding our work," Wakim said.

Additional administrative positions are now included in the budget, she added, and the most significant change is adding someone to oversee the new district's human resources department.

The committee had little discussion about the budget changes.

Tom McCullough, former principal at Signal Mountain Middle/High and a member of the committee, reminded the group they are just putting together a budget proposal and ultimately a new school board would make funding decisions.

"There is nothing hard and fast about this," he said, talking about the human resources position.

By mid-September the committee hopes to have a finalized budget, which it will publicly release along with a narrative explaining how it was derived and calculated.

Charley Spencer, a member of the committee, previously cautioned the group against rushing to finalize a budget, noting how significant a decision it is to start a separate district. In coming weeks, he plans to run a risk-analysis on the proposed budget which he will then present to the committee.

Members of the Hamilton County Board of Education have been vocal about not wanting to lose the mountain's schools, which are three of the county's top-performing. The schools educate about 2,500 students and a very small share of minority and poor students.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger plans to hold a meeting Sept. 7 at Signal Mountain Middle/High School to discuss the proposed separate school district.

The meeting is an attempt to "share with the public facts regarding the impact such an action could have on residents and students of Signal Mountain," Coppinger said in a statement announcing the meeting.

Signal Mountain's committee is expected to complete a final report detailing its findings about the viability of launching a separate school district the beginning of October. After the report is released, the Signal Mountain town council plans to hold community forums, allowing for public discussion about the report and the idea of a separate district.

The council will then decide if it wants to hold a referendum, giving town residents a chance to vote on whether to secede from Hamilton County Schools.

Contact staff writer Kendi A. Rainwater at krainwater@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @kendi_and.


This story was updated Aug. 17 at 6:15 p.m. to change the headline and add the word million to the third paragraph.


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