Budget talks continue for the Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE). The finance committee met Thursday afternoon to discuss financial concerns for different schools in the system. Earlier in the week, the school board held a joint meeting with county commissioners about the 2018 budget. During that meeting commissioners told board members to not expect any extra money for the next school year.
Each year the district receives federal funds for operating cost, but the superintendent of finance explained to school board members that this year things could be different due to President Trump's proposed budget.
“What I perceive from the commission is that they plan to give us no new funds, this year, other than growth funds,” said Dr. Steve Highlander.
Hamilton County school board members are moving forward and still hoping for the best. However, the finance superintendent warns them, some things could get cut. “54 billion dollars into defense spending, which means there will be cuts in other areas. So, it's possible Title 2 will go away completely,” said Christie Jordan.
It's devastating news for a school board already crunching numbers. “The cost, the exponential cost of educating children has gone up. And we're talking about keeping the same or a miniscule increase by growth. We have tremendous challenges,” said Dr. Highlander.
During the meeting, they took a hard look at numbers; trying to understand exactly where certain money is going. “I hope as much thought and discussion will go into our teachers as what we have done for our bus drivers,” said Kathy Lennon.
Some board members question what benefits Central Office will see in the 2018 proposed budget. “The deferred maintenance list that we have for some of our schools, and I see all of this going on just because somebody needs a different floor or somebody don't like the color of their office or somebody don't like the color of something, that they get this stuff done. I'm telling you, it just really leaves a bad taste in my mouth,” said Rhonda Thurman.
School board members walked away with remaining questions. They want different budgets made up to see the numbers for any, what-if, scenarios. “The community sees that, that our county commissioners see that, they know that what they are saying or what could be coming up. we could be looking at something different. we are talking about buildings but we may have to maintain what we already have,” said Karitsa Jones.