The Board of Education is considering reducing Franklin County High School’s block class schedule to seven periods a day to save money amid tight financial times, but several county commissioners who will be voting to fund the system say leave it as is.
The board and the County Commission’s School Committee met Monday to get a better bearing on where the school system’s financial situation stands.
At issue is the board wanting to have at least $2.4 mil-lion as a reserve fund balance at the end of June to carry over into the new fiscal year.
School Board members said the money is needed to ensure no financial shortfalls occur.
Dr. Rebecca Sharber, di-rector of schools, said the sys-tem hasn’t had an increase in annual appropriations from the commission in 10 years. She said that, although state law requires the system of have at least $1.2 million in reserve status, the board has had to dip further into its savings during the past several years to balance the school system budget, which is estimated to total $42.39 million.
Estimates are that changing from a high school block schedule to seven periods a day would save about $250,000 annually by reducing 14 employee positions through attrition, relocation at other system schools and retirement.
Sharber said no one would be losing their job.
Angie Fuller, school committee chairman, said the conversations she’s had with teachers, students and others have indicated changing the high school’s class schedule structure would have detrimental effects on the educational program.
Fuller said going to seven periods would reduce the academic time, and students would have difficulty in participating in advanced placement classes.
She read a letter from a student who explained reasons for being strongly against the proposed change because it would make it difficult to participate in college level courses while in high school.
Fuller said the end result, if the change were to occur, is that more Franklin County students would probably be going to Tullahoma High School.
Commissioner Eddie Clark said that the savings from the schedule change is estimated at $250,000, which is not that great of an amount, compared to the $1.2 million state re-serve fund balance require-ment.
Fuller said she would do what she could to help keep the block class schedule.
At times the discussion be-came somewhat heated with Kevin Caroland, School Board chairman, telling Fuller, “You want to tell us where to cut, but you won’t give us any more money.”
He added that working through the financial issues is in the commission’s job description.
“That’s why you are running for office,” he said.
Another issue the School Board is dealing with is what to do about employee insurance.
Classified employees, such as in food service who work 180 days a year for the school system, have been getting 90 percent of their monthly insurance premiums paid while full-time certified employees, working 260 days a year, have had their insurance paid at 100 percent.
The board has discussed potentially placing all employees at the 90 percent level. Estimates are that it would save about $300,000 annually.
Board member Chris McDonough said it would be penalizing employees who have been at the 100 percent level because they would have to make up a $54 monthly difference.
Fellow board member Lance Williams echoed McDonough’s assessment.
“I’m not voting for a 12 percent pay cut,” he said, referring to what the situation would be like if the employees had to pick up the additional insurance costs.
The School Board will have another budget meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the sys-tem’s administration building, 215 S. College St., Winchester.
Caroland asked Clark to provide more concrete num-bers to the School Board when the commission receives fur-ther information about where the county’s overall financial picture stands.
County Mayor Richard Stewart said the commission needs to find out how much one cent on the property tax rate will be worth before it can determine what its revenue stream will be in the upcoming fiscal year. After that, he added, more solid information would be available to the commission and the board about what their options are to balance the school system budget.