Commission on track to pass continuation budget

Commission on track to pass continuation budget

June 11th, 2010 by Dan Whisenhunt in Politics Local

The county next week will consider approving a budget that will be a placeholder until county officials come up with a new budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Hamilton County school officials presented a large piece of that budget -- $372 million for schools -- at the county's regular meeting Thursday. While that gets the county closer to finishing the budget, county officials want a more accurate picture of revenues before putting the final product together.

"It allows us to continue to operate," Superintendent Jim Scales said of the continuation budget.

Hamilton County Schools Chief Financial Officer Tommy Kranz said revenues will increase when the Volkswagen plant comes online in 2012, but he said the school system's expenses likely will outpace that growth. In 2012, the net shortfall will be $7.2 million, according to budget documents presented to the county.

Commissioner John Allen Brooks pointed out that the county is only receiving half of its additional Basic Education Program funds promised by the state. If the county received the additional $13 million it is due, it would cover the shortfall, he said.

Mr. Brooks, who is making the funding one of his campaign issues as he runs for re-election this year, still thinks the commission should sue to get the rest of the money.

"I don't like losing," Mr. Brooks said of the BEP funds. "We're not being treated fairly."

Mayor Claude Ramsey said the county would continue to push for the money.

"The problem is the state doesn't have the money," Mr. Ramsey said.

Dr. Scales said Hamilton County isn't the only school system with budget woes.

"You have to take into consideration there are 135 other school systems out there in the same position," he said. "Perhaps a better strategy is to work with our legislative delegation."

In other business Thursday, the commission approved a $289,384 contract to Stein Construction Co. for track improvements at Signal Mountain Middle/High School. The contract will include surfacing, striping paving and fencing. Commissioner Richard Casavant will provide $23,297 for the project out of his discretionary fund.

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