The Campbell County Commission met Monday night as a Budget & Finance Committee to take a first look at the upcoming fiscal year budget. The good news was that there will be enough natural growth in county revenues to enable county employees to receive a pay raise.

The bad news is that the school budget is facing a $1.8 million shortfall due to declining student populations, subsequent cuts in state BEP funding and a state-mandated pay raise for teachers.

The county’s general fund, sanitation, ambulance and highway funds can absorb a 35-cent per hour raise for all hourly employees and a subsequent raise of $728 per year for salaried employees, Finance Director Jeff Marlow told the committee.

Marlow pointed out that according to his calculations, total tax dollars for the upcoming fiscal year, with no tax increase, will total $16,048,000 compared to current year collections of $15,862,000. After accounting for some expected increases in retirement, insurance, etc. the county should have enough to cover the expected cost of $83,619 for raises with around $40,000 remaining in additional revenue for other projects.

An additional $51,300 will be needed to grant raises to the employees in the Sheriff’s Department, but Marlow stated that the Sheriff has enough excess revenue in his budget, from state prisoner board fees, to cover those raises.

The eight commissioners who attended the budget meeting lost no time in voting unanimously to approve the pay raises, pending approval of the committee’s action by the full commission.

School non-certified employees received raises last year, when other county employees did not, while the Tennessee Department of Education has approved mandated raises for teachers in the upcoming fiscal year.

That will add to a more dismal outlook for the Department of Education. Because of decreases in state BEP funding which is tied to student population, county schools may expect $1,100,000 less in state funding in fiscal year 2019-20. In addition, the county’s match of the state-mandated pay raises will be another $473,000. By the time expected increases in utility costs, step up raises and workers’ comp costs tied to the raises, the total shortfall in the school budget is projected to be $1,838,000, Marlow explained.

Marlow added that the county is already exceeding the maintenance of effort level required by state law by $370,000. “There’s really nowhere to go without making cuts,” Marlow pointed out. In this case, cuts will probably mean personnel, since salaries constitute the majority of the school budget.

Some savings might be achieved through retirements, but schools already have more teachers than the required teacher-student ratio, largely due to smaller rural schools. Marlow is expected to brief the school board on the budget shortfall this week so that they can begin looking at possible savings.

That could be bad news for the parents and teachers at White Oak Elementary, who are hoping that the school board can find funds to add classrooms at the school.

This is also a reappraisal year, with the Property Assessor’s office busy reappraising the county tax base. By law, the county’s tax rate must be lowered to a certified rate that offsets any increase in assessed value. The commission can exceed the certified tax rate, but only after going through a complex process including public hearings. In the past, few commissions have braved the hearing process in order to exceed the certified tax rate.    (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 04/26/2019-6AM)