What should have been a short and to-the-point meeting turned contentious after rumors spread on social media this week that the Monroe County Commission was going to vote down the Monroe County School System’s budget.
The rumors were that the budget would be voted down for various reasons, including an accusation that the commissioners wanted to control every dollar of the budget. Those, however, turned out to be much ado about nothing as the school system budget was passed by an 8-0 vote. Commissioners Richard Kirkland and Doug Watson were not in attendance.
One commissioner in particular, 3rd District’s Chris Wiseman, wanted to know where the rumors came from. He asked Director of Schools Dr. DeAnna McClendon to find out where the rumors started, and if there would be any punishment for the person who started them.
“We recently attended a convention in Gatlinburg,” McClendon said, “where it was stressed that schools need to have a social media policy. We are going to look at ours and see what we can do with it.”
One of the rumors going around was that the County Commission was dictating to the School Board how school money should be spent.
“Did we ever dictate to you how your budget should be?” Commissioner Paulette Summey asked McClendon.
“No, you did not,” McClendon said.
Another thing that seemed to upset people on social media was the meeting being held at 12:30 p.m. during the middle of the day. Finance Director Libby Hicks said the meeting was held at that time for several reasons, with the main one being that the budget had to be passed so the state would send a second Basic Education Program (BEP) check. The county gets $31 million of its budget from the state in BEP funds.
Hicks was also upset about some of the things said on social media.
“We’ve had many workshops on the budget,” she said. “You can come to those and they are always held in the evening. Don’t just come to the last one. And we always hold official budget meetings in the big Courthouse. It was never scheduled to be held in the small Courthouse (JPK building).
“Everything I saw on on social media was wrong,” Hicks added.
After spending the whole spring and summer going back and forth over the budget and proposed wheel and property tax increases, at the moment, the county is funded and operating.
After the County Commission voted down a property tax increase of 12 cents, 11 of which would have gone to the school system, on July 30, the Monroe County Board of Education was forced to eliminate several teaching positions to help balance its 2019-20 fiscal year budget, which was facing a $481,728 deficit. No current staff members lost their jobs, however.
The 2019-20 total estimated revenues and other sources for the Monroe County School System is $43,234,204. The total estimated expenditures and other uses is $43,060,251. There are 589 employee positions for this school year, as opposed to the 597 in the system last year.
The next County Commission meeting is scheduled for Aug. 27 at 6 p.m. in the Courthouse.