By KEVIN BOWDEN
The Union City School System has lost an estimated $90,000 under the county’s 2011-12 budget through what is being referred to as a “back door” move by the Obion County Commission.
When the county commission approved its 2011-12 budget in August 2011, it cut 7 cents from its appropriation to the Obion County School System. That 7 cents represents about $250,000 in county education funding which was made up with the county school system using TVA funding to make up the loss. The Union City School System lost an estimated $90,000 due to the commission’s action in August 2011, according to Union City Director of Schools Gary Houston.
The TVA annually appropriates funds to local governments as payments in lieu of taxes, and while the county school system will be able to make up the $250,000 loss from the 7-cent property tax cut, the city school system doesn’t have access to the TVA funds.
Houston met with the three-member Revenue Research Committee Thursday morning to make a plea for the reinstatement of the $90,000 in education funding to the Union City School System’s 2011-12 budget
He described the commission’s move as “a back door way of the county getting their money, but the city not getting their money.”
“I don’t want a conflict,” committee chairman Jerry Grady said at the meeting.
“I don’t either,” Houston replied.
However, Grady announced, “this year’s budget is in place.”
Houston went on to question whether the commission’s action was “fair” for the city school system.
“I just appeal to you to … do what’s fair,” he said.
Also in attendance at Thursday’s half-hour meeting were county commissioners Sam Sinclair, Allen Nohsey, Dwayne Hensley, Ralph Puckett and Tim Doyle. County Mayor Benny McGuire and Obion County Director of Schools David Huss were also in attendance at the meeting. Sinclair and Nohsey are the other two members of the ad-hoc committee formed by Budget Committee chairman Danny Jowers.
Although Thursday’s meeting was relatively civil, there were moments when the commission’s action was questioned in very stern terms.
“I think the whole thing stinks. I think you ought to write them a $90,000 check and be done with it,” Doyle said.
In addition to serving on the county commission, Doyle is also chairman of the commission’s Finance Committee and is a former member of the Union City Board of Education.
It appears through comments made at Thursday’s meeting that several commissioners were unaware of how their vote on the cut in county education funding would affect the Union City School System. Also, Houston was unaware of how the county’s 2011-12 budget would affect his budget.
But, as McGuire stated at the meeting, “You’re caught holding the bag.”
“Really, this is just the thing that you weren’t notified the cut was being made,” Grady told Houston.
It was revealed during the meeting that in the last few years no one from Union City has contacted the county over the tax rate and budget appropriations.
Huss stated the county school system has absorbed major budget cuts amounting to more than $100,000 a year since 2008 and that hasn’t generated as much controversy as this year’s education funding cuts. There was even some discussion at the committee meeting about the disparity in city-county funding as it relates to debt service.
In the end though, the three-member committee voted unanimously to have the Budget Committee revisit the issue at its May 7 meeting, which will begin at 9 a.m. at the local courthouse. The controversial issue is expected to be the first item on the agenda.
At the conclusion of Thursday’s meeting, McGuire clarified that students in the two local school systems “have not been deprived of anything because of this transaction.”
The county commission is continuing to work on its 2012-13 budget. So far, only two budget hearings have been held.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 4.28.12