With no one from the general public, outside of the media and school personnel, and three of five board members in attendance, the Knoxville School Board approved its fiscal year 2013-14 budget.
A public hearing was held prior to the budget’s approval. During the hearing, Business Manager Craig Mobley explained that the budget is based on the most conservative effort, one in which there is no increase in funding from the state. The Legislature had not finalized the level of increased funding prior to Monday’s meeting.
Sen. Amy Sinclair, who represents Knoxville in the State Senate, is a member of the conference committee charged with finding a compromise on school funding. The Senate would like to see a 4 percent increase, while the House seeks 2 percent. The committee met Tuesday, and she reported that nothing was accomplished. Another meeting was scheduled for Wednesday at noon.
School Board President Leslie Miller said the board is challenged by the Legislature’s lack of settlement. She added that the board does not know other costs, including pay levels for staff. The board and the Knoxville Education Association still have not reached an agreement on a Master Contract for the coming school year.
The budget Mobley proposed certified the property tax rate at the highest it could possibly be. Miller complimented his efforts to adapt to the unknowns facing the board.
“Craig’s been very, very helpful,” Miller said.
The board was required to certify its budget to the state by April 15, one month after cities and counties were required to have their budgets submitted. Board Vice President Mike Helle believes the Legislature should change the due date, as the state funding level has not been settled in years past.
“That would be the fairest way to all schools,” Helle said. Knoxville Schools’ property tax levy will be $15.495 per $1,000 of taxable valuation. That levy could decrease if the level of state funding is increased.