Education Committee slices WCS budget by a $2.6 million
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
On the heels of the first hearing April 8 when commissioners expressed dissatisfaction with the Williamson County Schools district’s seemingly hefty budget proposal for the 2013-14 school year, the County Commission Education Committee found ways to shave off costs despite Looney’s insistence that the district’s budget proposal represents needs – free of superfluous requests.
The committee passed Commissioner Brandon Ryan’s, District 11, proposed amendment to cut the WCS 2013-14 Operating Budget from $260.6 million to $258 million, “even.”
“I think that it’s a fair amount because it’s cutting the shortage [$5.5 million] in half,” Ryan said. “And we still don’t know what revenues are going to come in at the end of the school year.”
If the amended budget passes through the county budget committee as well as the full commission, the school board will have to trim the already lean budget by about $2.6 million.
Ryan noted that the district has consistently spent under budget for the last five years.
Judy Herbert, District 3, made a motion to tighten the budget even more to $255 million, but with only her vote of approval on the floor, the amendment failed.
“I would feel better with a $258 million budget rather than a $255 million budget,” Looney said. “I honestly don’t know how we would make that work.”
At the first WCS budget hearing, Ryan suggested that the district cut the budget by about 2 percent, or approximately $5.5 million – the amount that sits in the last column of the 2013-14 ledger adorned with a preceding negative sign.
The absence of $5.5 million stands in the way of WCS funding the overall budget, a cost that will most likely fall to the responsibility of the county commission. Officials hope that revenues collected in June will make up for the amount.
The WCS fund balance, which holds the amount, began to recede when the County Commission directed the school board to “use their own money” to fund capital projects last fall. Looney warned the body that the directive could hurt the district’s ability to fund the 2013-14 budget – a prediction that has come to fruition.
“It’s a priority of mine as a commissioner not to have a tax increase. And the jury is still out as to whether that’s going to happen if we fully fund the budget,” said Ryan. “I think we can educate the children of Williamson County on a quarter of a billion dollars.”
Throughout the first round of budget talks, Looney argued that the budget proposal represents an appropriate request reflective of what’s needed to educate the WCS student population, which is growing by 2.73 percent, an increase of about 900 students.
Consequently the population growth has led to an increase of about 2.6 percent for the 2013-14 operating budget. Compared to the current fiscal year, this represents a decrease in the cost per pupil.
Ryan’s approved cut for the WCS budget was not the only one Monday night. The committee also approved CCEC Chairman Doug Langston’s, District 12, proposed amendment to slice capital funds from $7 million to $4 million, which primarily includes maintenance and technology needs for the district.
“I think that’s a reasonable starting point, which could be added to later if needed,” Langston said.
When asked by the board whether Looney would spend money on technology or maintenance if forced to choose, Looney said “both.”
“We will have to re-prioritize our maintenance and technology needs,” Looney said. “We will be very judicious in how we allocate our funds.”
“This is the first step in a series of steps,” said Looney. “I appreciate the commission’s efforts. Money is tight.”
Posted on: 4/23/2013