Parents, School Leaders Unhappy about Loudon County Budget

Loudon County (WVLT) - There's major controversy in Loudon County about how to spend the county's dollars to fund education.

Volunteer TV's Whitney Daniel went to the county commission meeting Monday night, where commissioners approved the 2007-2008 budget.

County leaders made a small change that will effect education in a big way.

They reallocated seven cents of the county's property tax revenue.

"Two years ago, we raised our property tax 32 cents. About half of that went to the schools. It's hard to come two years later and say we gotta kick it up again because of the schools," said County Commissioner Don Miller.

But, parents say at this point, an increase is more than welcome.

"If they would come to use now and say, yes, a small nominal tax increase would be good right now, it would help our county, it would help our schools and it would be a lot wiser for the public to take," says parent Wendy Baustian.

But, instead of an increase, the commission will take seven-cents from the property tax that went to fund schools and send it into the general budget.

It's a move that has parents and school leaders very angry.

"What you just witnessed was a conscience decision to reallocate about a million dollars away from education to other parts of the county fund," said Wayne Miller, Superintendent of Lenior City Schools.

County Commissioners say they expect good news in the form of $1.3 million dollars from the state Basic Education Program fund.

"There is some good news in all of this, which I don't think the school board fully appreciates yet," says Commissioner Don Miller.

But school leaders say the damage is already done.

"Funding at that level will basically begin to effect positions and what you can offer," said Superintendent Wayne Miller.

Miller says now, additional revenue has to be found, possibly in the form of a tuition for Lenoir City Schools.

And for Loudon County, it could come in cuts to essential programs.

"Right now, they're looking at cutting the school resource officers, nurses, no arts and music, in our schools. And these are just not acceptable. Our children need these services in order to advance and get ahead in life, so I am very upset," said Wendy Baustian.

The budget commission says it's hesitant to raise taxes now because there will be a definite property tax increase in the next year or two when the county begins a major school building program.

With that money, the plan to upgrade facilities and add classrooms to the existing schools.

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