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School officials upset by lack of tax revenues to fund operations

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STAFF REPORT

Members of the Campbell County Board of Education are upset about having to use fund-balancing measures to operate the school system this year.
During Tuesday’s regular monthly board of education meeting, board member Rector Miller opened a dialogue on the lack of local funding by quizzing Campbell County Director of Finance Jeff Marlow.
Miller was upset that members of the board were either misinformed or did not have enough information before voting to use more than $1 million in fund balance to pass the 2013-14 school budget last month.
Much of the rub with the county commission stems from the fact that it refused to pass a 4.88 percent property tax increase last month to fund eight additional school resource officers.
“My recommendation would be to design a school system that would meet the minimum standards as required by law and meets the resources, and then whatever remains make a priority list,” said Marlow.
“And once you do that, don’t change the numbers. If you can tell the county’s legislative body that you have to get rid of X if we don’t get more of Y, then somebody’s going to listen.”
Board member Eugene Lawson chimed in.
“Jeff, you’re walking a tightrope. You want to make the commission happy, and you want to make us happy,” said Lawson.
“There’s a perception out there that we’ve got piles of money and we’re gonna waste it.
“If you take the amount of money Campbell County spends per student each year, we’re lower than every little county around us, except maybe Union County.
“Every one of them gets more funding from the local funding body than we do. They want us to run a Cadillac program on a Volkswagen budget.”
While Lawson was speaking, board member Mike Orick did a quick Internet check and discovered that, not only was Campbell County the lowest locally funded school system, it ranked 123 out of 137 school districts statewide in that regard.
Lawson went on to say that he often hears people say that no industry will ever locate to Campbell County because the school system doesn’t produce an educated work force.
“If we don’t ever improve the level of education here, how in the world is that ever gonna happen? What I’m complaining about is that Campbell County drags its feet when compared to other counties. How can they not raise our taxes when they know they’re gonna have to give the school system 10 to 15 percent more?”
Miller said from now on, it should be absolutely clear that the board understands what exactly is in the budget and how it will be funded.
The sometimes-heated discussion over the budget took up much of the more than two hours the board met.
The board did approve budget amendments and resolutions as well as a flu vaccine grant program, a canopy extension at LaFollette Elementary and a new countywide accountant/bookkeeper position.
Miller and Johnny Creekmore voted against creating the accountant/bookkeeper position. Creekmore said he voted no, because he felt there were other more pressing needs in the school system such as a PE teacher and a school nurse on the Jellico side of the mountain.
In other communication, Poston applauded schools on growth in TCAP scores. Board of Education Chairman Josh Parker also reported that the solar energy program produced $15,000 last month for the combined nine sites and $70,000 for the year.
He said White Oak’s solar credit was more than its usage, so the school did not have a utility bill for the month.
Board members also plan to look into how In School Suspension teachers are hired and what the education requirements are for that position.
The next board meeting was moved up a week to Sept. 3, because Poston will be attending a conference in Gatlinburg the following week.