By MATT BLOIS
The Williamson County Board of Education approved a lean budget at its board meeting on Monday night, and now it’s up to the County Commission to find funding for the school district.
This budget is slightly higher than the budget proposed last year. The district is going to open three new schools next year and expects to grow by about 1,200 students. But schools director Mike Looney said it would be hard to cut any further.
“We are asking for fewer positions in the upcoming year than we have in the previous several years in a row, which is a good indication of how hard we’ve worked to try to maintain a strict budget guideline” Looney said at the meeting.
The budget approved on Monday asks the County Commission for about $354 million. Board member Jay Galbreath said most of the budget increase will go toward items that the district is essentially required to pay, such as raises for teachers and other employees, retirement benefits and the operating costs for the new schools that are opening.
He said the rest of the increase, which represents a tiny part of the budget, would pay for the growing number of students in the district.
The budget is still more than what the district expects to receive in revenue. The County Commission decides how much funding the district will get.
Board member Dan Cash encouraged the County Commission to approve the board’s budget. He said the school system is worth investing in because it’s one of the main economic drivers in this area.
“They hold the purse strings. We have no purse strings,” he said. “I call on the County Commission and the Williamson County government to do what’s right and approve this.”
This budget is only for the district’s day-to-day operations, and wouldn’t fund construction of, or improvements to, school buildings. The sales tax referendum that passed in February will raise some money for those kinds of construction projects, but won’t go toward the day-to-day operations.
Board member Anne McGraw said that last year the County Commission sent the school board’s initial budget back, and asked the board to cut $6 million. She pointed out that the district has already made significant cuts from earlier drafts of this year’s budget.
In addition to the budget for the general purpose school fund, the board also approved budgets for the cafeteria fund and the extended school program fund. Those funds are self sufficient.
The board voted unanimously to approve the budget. The County Commission will consider how much money to give the schools next month.