Knox County School Board discusses budget at meeting

Knox County School Board discusses budget at meeting

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The Knox County School Board looked at its finances Monday night for next year and the years to come. The Knox County School Board looked at its finances Monday night for next year and the years to come.
"The suggestions they have for places for us to look or consider are certainly not simple ones, not easy ones and would be quite challenging," said Dr. Jim McIntyre. "The suggestions they have for places for us to look or consider are certainly not simple ones, not easy ones and would be quite challenging," said Dr. Jim McIntyre.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The Knox County School Board looked at its finances Monday night for next year and the years to come.

Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre presented his budget projections for next year and the board is hearing from a consulting firm offering up dramatic changes.

At the beginning of Monday night's work session. Dr. Jim McIntyre presented a budget overview for 2015 fiscal year. He said this is just the preliminary look at the numbers.

In his presentation, the projected revenue is $10,510,000. There are three major areas of revenue: sales and property taxes and BEP funding. They make up around 97 percent. The budget director for Knox County Schools, Ron McPherson, says they are looking at no increase in sales tax and they won't know BEP funding until April.

The projected expenditure is $19,598,940. McPherson called these items obligations. That leaves a preliminary budget gap of just over $9 million.

Dr. McIntyre will present his full budget presentation to the board on March 31.

The other item on the agenda was a presentation by the Parthenon Group, a consulting firm hired to do an in-depth analysis of the Knox County School district. Their recommendations were part of a six month analysis as part of the Smart Spending grant funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Seth Reynolds of the Parthenon Group outlined their suggestions and were met with much skepticism from the Board of Education.

"This is the role of the third party, to ask the tough questions and take scarce resources and use them the best we can," said Reynolds to the board.

Some of their goals are a creating a more personalized learning environment for students, optimizing recruiting and hiring of teachers and staff and providing better support for that staff, bBut those investments come with a price tag.

"If there are some things we believe are important to be able to fund to enhance the quality of education for our kids, are there any trade offs that they're suggesting that we might want to look at and consider for the future?" said McIntyre.

Some of the trades off recommended by the Parthenon Group include reducing staff, increasing class size, increasing the number of instructional days from 180 to 200, and discontinuing Knox County support of Project Grad.

Many of the suggestions were met with criticism and questions from board members.

Board member Indya Kincannon called the suggestions "very disturbing."

The Board was quick to remind people that these suggestions were not those of the district but of the Parthenon Group.

One suggestion is to cut non-teaching positions. The Parthenon Group found Knox County schools has lower student to staff ration than benchmark districts and suggests reducing staff across nine categories including librarians, custodians, psychologists, guidance counselor, speech and occupational therapists , social workers and nurses.

"This is the one I looked at first and thought we'd be crazy," said board member Karen Carson. "I look at the nurses, the counselors and then needs at our school and we're no where near to meeting those needs."

McIntyre said those are long term suggestions.

"The suggestions they have for places for us to look or consider are certainly not simple ones, not easy ones and would be quite challenging. I think any additional conversation on their findings and recommendations would really require a great deal of conversation and a great deal of additional engagement and to see what the board thinks if those are areas we want to explore," he said.

The board ended the meeting saying there was much to be discussed.

To see the whole presentation from Parthenon Group click here.

To see the FY 2015 Budget overview click here.

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