Metro schools prepare to slash $35M from budget

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 12:34am

Administrators at Metro Nashville Public Schools are estimating a $35 million shortfall for the 2010-2011 fiscal budget year, a scenario that could lead to “drastic cuts,” though Director of Schools Jesse Register has vowed to avoid eliminating teachers’ positions.

Obligations to pay higher employee pensions and insurance costs, combined with the district’s use of rainy day funds during its budget crisis last year, could leave MNPS officials and the nine-member school board exploring ways to slash its $620.7 million operating budget –– either that, or the mayor’s office and Metro Council would need to find a revenue source to make up the difference.

The school board’s Budget and Finance Committee discussed the still-preliminary figures Tuesday in the first of a series of meetings outlined to approve a budget by April, before sending it to Mayor Karl Dean and the council. 

“Be prepared for drastic reductions if no new funding is identified,” committee chairman Steve Glover told his fellow board members. “We’ve had some interesting times over the past few years. It’s going to be very interesting this time. I don’t think any of us have seen what we’re about to look at.”

Sluggish sales tax revenue last year led to a significantly smaller $15.4 million shortfall, prompting MNPS to slash 150 teacher positions, 66 custodial jobs and 32 campus supervisors, among other cuts. Register doesn’t want that to happen this time around.

“We changed our staffing pattern significantly last year and reduced the number of teachers,” Register said. “We cannot do that again. Another reduction in classroom teaching positions is not something we can do. We’ve got to protect at all costs instructional programs.”

Sales tax revenue for the current budget is $7.5 million short of projections. The district also has to account for a $6 million increase in employee insurance costs, along with an additional $12.4 million in pension funds. Making matters worse, another $12.4 million in reserve funds used during last year’s budget crisis will come out of this year’s budget.

Historically, the district has tapped into its undesignated reserve funds –– set aside as rainy day funds dollars –– during budget shortfalls. But Tennessee state law requires all districts to keep reserves above 3 percent of their budgets. The MNPS reserve funds have gotten so low that using them is off limits.

“This is a dilemma, but it’s not of anyone’s doing in Davidson County, or in the school district, or in Metro government,” Register said. “It’s the hand we’re being dealt because of the economy.”

17 Comments on this post:

By: willtw on 1/12/10 at 11:54

Wveryone knows the answer to the shortfall for Metro schools and it's need to cut expenses: BUILD A 550 MILLION DOLLAR CONVENTION CENTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By: bfra on 1/13/10 at 12:44

Now you know Karl has got to have a legacy, regardless of necessities! Too bad tar & feathering isn't legal.

By: govskeptic on 1/13/10 at 5:08

Of course we have to cut this budget. What convention comes to Nashville
to see how smart or dumb our students are? We must continue the "Brand"
as the MCC proponents proclaim, and that "Brand" doesn't include 100
year old water pipes, failing schools, busted sidewalks, leaking school
house roofs, Tent Cities, and outrageous water rates!

Our Brand is "Taxpayer Subsidy": Arena, Stadium, Hall of Fame, Art Center.
Symphony Center, Zoo, Children's museum and Discovery Center. Over
Appraised and overpriced Real Estate will take care of all that, so let's
add more?

By: sidneyames on 1/13/10 at 7:16

Is the school budget state or city govt? I don't have children so I'm not a follower of this topic, but would like to know.

I don't want a convention center to overshadow the need for a better school budget.

By: border collie on 1/13/10 at 7:46

The schools are already terrible! the poor teachers....and our poor kids have to suffer BUT build that new billion dollar steel trap and screw the kids....they will be running our city one day so show them how we care about ourselves and them SLASH the already pitiful budget and throw them under the bus cause we are moving up in this world and we need to be in the limelight with our big convention center! It is sick people! Wonder if that budget allows for exterminating the rats at MLK???? Take a tour of our schools if you wonder....see the class sizes splitting at the seams...ask to see the lists that are sent home with the kids begging for supplies for the teachers.....IT IS AN OUTRAGE!!!!

By: michael thomas on 1/13/10 at 8:04

If there needs to be cuts lets start at the top. Take a moment and look at the salaries that higher ups make, then look at support workers pay. Teachers are paid differently than support workers, any time the state does something teachers are added to getting what ever the state does. They say there has not been raises giving in two years,thats not true. Support workers have not had a raise in four to five years. The suppose steps are funny, you are lucky if you get a dime. Then they take that back with new ways to call it a pension which they are secreatly finding ways not to pay as much. Convention you say! I think not. If you look at the data base in mnps you will see who has the dough. So If it does not make make dollars then use gods good sence but not at our exspence.

By: artsmart on 1/13/10 at 8:21

Tell me why Register is adding new staff positions on Bransford when they have to cut. It was in one of the papers yesterday about a new position for a media person he added. That comes with the Asst Super title. I would bet that is not a $35,000 position and what does it have to do with educating children. When Register came to town he created a position that does his bidding, it was a job for a friend whose name escapes me. Once again a six figure job that does not do anything to educate children. Just a new kingdom, different king.

By: TITAN1 on 1/13/10 at 9:00

Just like the rest of you, I'm no expert on this, but aren't you comparing apples to oranges? Did I hear correctly that the funding for the MCC cannot be used for education or anything else?

By: dogmrb on 1/13/10 at 9:15

Artsmart and TITAN1 both are right. Funding for the MCC would possibly generate sales tax dollars that could be used for the schools. And easily $5 to $10 million of the $35 could be found by eliminating leftovers at Bransford Avenue. Principal pay should be tied to teacher performance and eliminate that pay inequity too. If teacher and Principal incentive pay was implemented, private donations could be solicited for those extras but it would take a strong monitoring system not to have rampant abuse.

By: dogmrb on 1/13/10 at 9:17

Also the elected Board of Education could stop being hardnosed about hiding abuses within the system and free up some time/dollars from Metro legal for schools. Too many little dogs trying to mark their territory.

By: BigPapa on 1/13/10 at 9:31

Well let's see when you chase off your real tax base to the surrounding counties I guess this is what you get. I'd say of my social group all are white professional families with children with incomes over $150,000 and I only know of one that lives in Davidson Co. everyone else fled to the doughnut counties claiming "better schools" (read into that what you want.)
I cant say I blame them now.

By: girliegirl on 1/13/10 at 10:05

@BigPapa... yep, your assumption is correct. And as for the MCC, if I were given the choice between Vegas or some other music town, I would still choose Vegas, for obvious reasons. Nashville will never have the "Vegas" lure, no matter how much money we throw at it....

By: BigPapa on 1/13/10 at 11:25

I think the Mayor and city leaders have cynically looked at that senario and they know that those type of people are gone, and they ain't coming back. Their solution is focus the city's attention and budget on out of of towners & tourists realizing that this is who they really serve now.
The few people that remain in Davidson Co, well we get a few crumbs tossed to the schools, fire dept, police, but the real money goes to Titans, Preds, arenas, and MCC.

By: nashtnman on 1/13/10 at 12:09

Oh yea, lets spend 625 million dollars on a convention center and cut our education budget. The crooked bastard are pentalizing our education system to personally profit and further their careers. We have a crooked coucil and mayor. VOTE THEM ALL OUT!!!!!

By: JeffF on 1/13/10 at 3:38

The current convention industry has done a wonderful job of generating revenue to keep Nashville out of budget problem. Without them we would have to cut the schools' budge $35 million.

You would be amazed what the convention center money could be used for Titan if you simply asked the state to change the enabling legislation. Then that money could be used for something useful instead of the foolish convention slot machine that never pays off.

By: HLTPR on 1/13/10 at 9:49

I agree...start at the top. But that makes sense, so they will begin cutting within the schools that directly affect teachers and, more importantly, students.
Why is Metro paying someone $86,000 a year to check and see if teachers are highly qualified? I mean, seriously. That's a full-time job?? It takes 12 months to go through the teacher database and tell teachers what Praxis test they have to take to be qualified? Total waste of money. I don't think Register has stuck with any of his original plans of eliminating positions, in fact, it seems as though he has created new ones and "shifted" others around while they still receive top salaries.
No wonder families flock to surrounding counties....Metro is embarrasing. Until Register gets a handle on wasted money at the top level, Metro Schools WILL NOT be a family's first choice (which is the new adopted motto of Metro Schools).

By: howardjonesjuve... on 1/14/10 at 7:22

Howard Jones Juvenile Court Clerk May 2010
Our children are our future. We must become proactive and revolutionary as to how we attack our educational issues. As we fail to educate our children our prisons and detention centers swell. We are ALL responsible to make change happen. Get involved to make a difference. Tutor a child. Be a Big Brother or Sister. Be a mentor. Attend a town hall meeting. Voice your concern.