Williamson County Schools found $5 million to cut from its proposed budget, as asked by the county last month.
The cut means that there will likely be no tax increase in this year’s county budget.
In a letter written to the Williamson County School Board, Superintendent Mike Looney outlined how the district can cut its budget from $343.6 million to $337.7 million by cutting back slightly on health care coverage for the district’s employees.
In May, the county Budget Committee shot down the Williamson County Schools proposed budget passed by the WCS Board, which represented an increase of $14 million over this current year’s budget.
Amid a larger conversation and anxiety about how to fund a projected half-billion dollars in new schools over the next decade, the Budget Committee knocked $5 million off and passed a $338 million budget instead.
Budget committee members said that if they had not cut the $5 million it would have necessitated a tax increase of 8 cents. (The current rate is $2.15. Last year it was $2.31, but because of a 2016 reassessment and attendant increase in property values, the current rate created an absolute increase of 15 percent over 2015-2016.)
In May, Looney told committee members the only place he thought he could cut $5 million would be from hiring additional teachers, which are needed for the predicted 2,000 new students who come into WCS each year.
Instead of reducing teachers, the letter to the board calls for a reduction in medical and dental premiums.
“As noted in our budget memo to the commission, a majority of our increase in our budget was a direct result from the increase in medical and dental premiums from $10,000 to $11,500,” Looney wrote. “This represented a $6,373,000 increase to the budget prior to adding new personnel to the budget and accounted for 2% of a 5.8% increase of our overall budget over the prior year.”
“In May, the county published their recommendation for our budget and the intended tax
increase. After discussions with the county and staff to come to an agreement, we are
recommending reducing the budget to a new total of $337,706,400, which will not incur a tax increase.”
Looney wrote that he arrived at this cut after much consultation and consideration.
“A decrease in the amount of the medical insurance increase accounts for the lion share of the reduction,” he wrote. “The County will make the same reduction accordingly to their budgets. In addition, we scoured the budget to find cuts that would not harm the classroom.”
This new schools budget will be voted on by the county commission on July 10.