Despite above-average academic performance, the Weakley County School System is facing financial uncertainty.
On Tuesday, the Weakley County Finance, Ways, and Means Committee met to discuss various budget transfers, and the committee also heard a presentation by Director of Schools Randy Frazier.
Frazier, along with the data coordinator Betsi Foster, informed the committee and guests of the current situation of the schools with a presentation titled “ A Snapshot of Weakley County Schools.” The purpose of the presentation was to inform the committee on the current progress of the school system, and to also show the FWM committee what changes were occurring within the budget and why they were occurring.
Foster spoke on the academic achievements of the school system. According to Foster, last year, Weakley County ranked first among county systems in West Tennessee in grades 3-8 Reading, third in grades 3-8 Math, fifth in class size, and second among all school districts in West Tennessee in average ACT score. There are 36 school districts in West Tennessee, and only 20 county systems.
The Weakley County School System earned “Grade A – Exceptional” on the Tennessee Report Card, which shows the Tennessee K-6/Elementary School Effectiveness. That is based off the Yearly Achievement Gain 2009-2011, and compares 752 elementary schools.
Frazier gave an update on the Weakley County School System budget.
“From my seat, we’re looking at the toughest budget that the Weakley County Schools have had since 1992,” said Frazier.
“1992 was a time when we were the most divided we’ve ever been in our county, because of funding issues. This year we are in that same picture with our budget.”
“Things are tight, funding has been cut, and we’re looking at a lot of folks losing jobs and a lot of cutbacks this year that we’re not very proud of.”
According to Frazier, during 2010-11, Weakley County teacher salaries ranked 96th out of 136 districts. Obion County ranked 80th, and Henry County ranked 45th. The expenditures per student was $7,889, which ranked 116th of 135.
Only 22 percent of the revenue is funded by the local government, which was ranked 88th out of 136. Obion County was 28.7 percent, and Henry County was 33 percent. Out of the total tax rate, 35.89 percent is the school tax, which ranked 64th out of 93. Obion County is 60.5 percent and Henry County is 58.65 percent.
According to the director, Weakley County is the fourth largest school system in West Tennessee, following Shelby County/Memphis, Madison County and Lauderdale County.
The property tax rate is $2.06, which is 49th out of 82. Obion County is $1.95 and Henry County is $2.05. Weakley County Schools get $0.74 of the $2.06, which provides an estimated revenue of $3,230,200 for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
State allotment for grades 1-3 is one teacher per 20 students; grades 4-9 is one teacher per 25 students; and grades 10-12 is one teacher per 22.08 students. According to Frazier, the student to teacher ratio is lower than the state’s allotment.
“If we operated on what the state told us that we had to operate on, then I would be going to Westview tomorrow, on top of what I’m already cutting, and cutting five teachers at Westview, four at Martin Middle, four at Dresden high, four at Dresden Middle, three at Dresden Elementary,” said Frazier.
“We couldn’t function at all of our high schools if we cut all of those employees, and I don’t think that’s what’s best for our students or system.”
In 2008-09, there were 375.5 teaching positions at Weakley County Schools, but the projections for 2012-13 would allow for 351.3 teaching positions.
“Drop in enrollment has been a part of that, and the increase in cost of everything else,” said Frazier.
“There’s not a lot of places that you can cut, but out of a $30-million budget, about 83 percent of that is salaries and benefits. There’s not a lot built in there that we can cut.”
Some of the future funding needs include purchasing new buses, roof replacement, HVAC replacement and repair, purchasing new technology and keeping teacher salaries competitive.
“It’s not a good time to be superintendent; it’s not a good time to be a principal,” said Frazier.
“You affect people’s livelihoods. $700,000 that we’re cutting – that’s money spent in Weakley County.”
“I think we all should be proud of what we have, and where we stand with the school system. It’s the most important thing we have going, and it’ll be the most critical thing that we have to make our county be progressive in the future.”
Other business during the meeting included hearing various budget transfer requests from the Weakley County Juvenile Court Director Keith Jones, the Weakley County Office on Aging director Gail Rogers, Weakley County Register of Deeds, Weakley County Election Commission, director of the Weakley County Library Candy McAdams, director of the Weakley County Ag Extension Jeff Lannom, and director of the Weakley County Health Department Tim James.
The committee also considered and passed several resolutions. Resolution 2012-33 authorized budget amendments to the School Federal Projects Fund for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 2012, and adjusted the Jobs Bill Grant monies.
Resolution 2012-34 authorized submission of an application for a litter and trash-collecting grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation.
Resolution 2012-35 authorized budget amendments to the General Fund for the Weakley County Election Commission.
Resolution 2012-37 authorized acceptance of a grant for the Weakley County Public Records from the State of Tennessee.
Resolution 2012-38 authorized budget realignment for the Weakley County Solid Waste Fund due to lack of State revenue to reimburse charges.
Resolution 2012-39 authorized budget amendments to the General Fund in order to install a new roof on the Weakley County Courthouse, and to help fund the cost of installing a new well at the Everett Stewart Regional Airport.
Various county committees will continue to meet in the following weeks prior to a meeting of the full Weakley County Commission at 5:15 p.m. May 29 in the meeting room of the Weakley County Courthouse in Dresden.