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Houston: Do what is fair for UC schools

Houston: Do what is fair for UC schools

By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
Union City Director of Schools Gary Houston implored the Obion County Budget Committee Monday to “do what is fair” to make up an estimated $90,000 loss to the Union City School System under the county’s 2011-12 budget.
The committee ultimately voted to place a report on the matter from the Revenue Research Committee on the agenda for discussion at the Obion County Commission’s next meeting on May 21.
In addition, the committee decided to address the issue at its next budget hearing as work continues on the budget for the next fiscal year.
The Revenue Research Committee — a subcommittee from the budget committee — was appointed to study the division of revenues between the Obion County and Union City boards of education.
The Union City School System has lost an estimated $90,000 under the county’s current 2011-12 budget due to a reduction allotted to the city and county schools this year — 7 cents on the tax rate — when the Obion County Commission approved its 2011-12 budget in August 2011.
The 7 cents represents about $250,000 in county education funding, which was made up in the Obion County School System with the use of county TVA funds. The TVA annually appropriates funds to local governments as payments in lieu-of-taxes.
Houston met with the three-member Revenue Research Committee on April 26 to make a plea for the reinstatement of the $90,000 in education funding to the Union City School System’s 2011-12 budget, describing the commission’s move as “a back door way of the county getting their money, but the city not getting their money.”
It was also revealed during the Revenue Research Committee meeting that, in the last few years, no one from Union City has contacted the county over the tax rate and budget appropriations.
Revenue Research Com-mittee chairman Jerry Grady reported to the budget committee Monday morning that no decision was made at the April 26 meeting and the matter was referred back to the budget committee.
Grady said he has received a copy of the Union City School System’s budget and he outlined the 10 areas of revenue for local taxes the county pays the Union City School System. His data showed increases in nearly all areas of collection so far this current fiscal year and he said the school system should come up with more than projected with two months of revenue remaining in the 2011-12 fiscal year.
Houston contended the county school system’s numbers would be proportionately the same, but he said county schools were compensated through TVA funds. Obion County Budget Committee chairman Danny Jowers clarified the county schools received county TVA funds and said Union City also receives TVA funds.
“I would appeal to you that Union City kids are also county kids. You represent the county as a whole,” Houston said.
Jowers contended the Obion County School System’s budget has also been cut over the years.Obion County Director of Schools David Huss confirmed the county system has been cut $680,000 since 2008.
Houston cited a loss in ADA percentages as a reason for reductions and Huss said the system was cut $170,000 per year the past four years plus the loss of ADA funds.
Houston appealed to the budget committee that it was not fair when TVA funds were given to the county system to compensate for the loss. Jowers reiterated county TVA funds were used and said the city also receives the funds.
Jowers said Obion County puts a considerable amount of money into the schools and Houston said it is by state law.
Jowers also said the Union City School System should present its budget to commissioners annually, just like the county system, since county tax dollars are involved and Houston said the budget is a public document. Likewise, Jowers said the budget approved by the county commission last year was a public document.
Grady said he believes there was “a communication problem” this year regarding Union City’s loss of funds. He said he does not believe any action should be taken.
Houston once again appealed to the budget committee to “do what’s fair” and said he did not know TVA funds were being used to compensate the county system.
Commissioner Dwayne Hensley apologized for his part in the approval of last year’s budget and said he had no idea “the scales were so unbalanced.”
Jowers said the issue can be re-examined in the new budget and commissioners can determine if they need to take action to remedy anything.
He also reminded those in attendance that all other county departments had been asked to make budget cuts.
On a final and related note, Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire said he has received a letter indicating TVA funds will be cut 6 to 10 percent this year.
Editor’s note: A follow-up story reporting on other miscellaneous action from Monday morning’s Obion County Budget Committee meeting will be published in Wednesday’s edition.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at cmenees@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 5.8.12

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