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Knox School Board approves budget proposal

7:36 PM, Apr 4, 2012   |    comments
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A bold budget from Knox County Schools, is moving to the mayor's desk.

Board of Education members approved Dr. Jim McIntyre's spending plan Wednesday night by a vote of 8-1. Mike McMcmillan (8th District) cast the lone vote of opposition.

The budget calls for an additional $35 million to be added to their budget, on top of natural revenue growth, and sustaining that funding level for the next five years.

The additional funds would be used for infrastructure, technology, and increased instructional time.

In order for the school system to see that money, taxes would likely need to be raised. Macmillan cited constituent concern as the reason for his vote.

"In light of the economy that we're in, what I'm hearing from the people in the district that I've talked to is that in this economy, they support good schools, better schools, but they're not willing to pay more taxes," he said.

Mayor Tim Burchett doesn't plan to go taxpayers to request additional money.

"I'm not sure if this is the proper time to be asking for more of their hard earned dollars," Burchett said.

Although the district's proposal outlines how the additional funding will be spent, Burchett wants more explanation.

"I'd still like to have some specifics," he said. "I don't know that I have been provided some of those numbers that I would like to see."

McIntyre plans to continue making the case to residents in Knox County.

"I'm looking forward to the continued conversation with our stakeholders, with our taxpayers, with our community here in Knoxville to say 'What level of investment are we willing to make in the future of our kids and the future vitality of our community?'," he said.

Burchett plans to present his spending plan to County Commission at the beginning of May.

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Knox County's Board of Education will grade the superintendent's budget proposal at their Monday work session. So far, the plan is earning high marks.

Dr. Jim McIntyre introduced his ambitious budget last month, and board members showed support. They will review the plan further, before putting it to a vote Wednesday.

He's asking for another $35 million annually to further educational goals. That, on top of projected regular revenue growth.

Following the introduction of the proposal in March, and a community forum last week, McIntyre is encouraged by the reaction the plan has received so far.

"We know we've made steady academic progress over the last few years, but we really do feel like we need to accelerate our efforts, our work, and really our results for children," Dr. McIntyre said. "This budget is a very specific attempt to make some investments in education initiatives that we know will make a difference, we know from research and experience, will make a difference in terms of student learning and student outcomes."

If approved, the system would see $35 million added to the budget for the next cycle. Then that level would be sustained every year for the next five years.

Initially, $7 million would be put towards the general fund and operating expenses, while $28 million would fund new facilities and technologies.

Over the course of five years, the entire amount would be added by $7 million increments into the general fund. Combined with projected natural revenue growth, the budget would grow from its current level, roughly $385 million, to just over $458 million.

McIntyre said this would allow them to make major investments without additional debt. He'd like to focus on getting new technologies, like laptops or iPads, into every students hands.

Other priorities include expanding performance pay for teachers, additional instructional time for students, full day kindergarten, and expanded support for students and teachers, among other things.

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