School officials say millions in Tenn. state funding at risk, could close schools Oct. 1

Lauren Williams's picture
Thursday, September 12, 2013

It’s a high-stakes battle between the city and the schools, with a potential loss of up to $1.87 million per month in state funding—and a possible shutdown of the school system on Oct. 1.

School officials said the Oak Ridge system has failed a state maintenance of effort test that requires local funding to remain at least the same from year to year. After some budget adjustments, there is a $250,000 shortfall, school officials said, and they want the city to cover it. It’s the equivalent of a 2.5-cent property tax rate increase.

“Unfortunately, we’re just in the position to ask the city to help us,” Oak Ridge Superintendent Bruce Borchers said Thursday. “They’re going to have to find that $250,000.”

But city officials suggest education officials are overreacting. The municipal staff said it’s not realistic to expect the state to withhold $1.87 million per month in Basic Education Program funding starting Oct. 1 simply because of a possible $250,000 shortfall—equal to roughly about $25,000 per month during a 10-month school year. They said the Tennessee education commissioner has the discretion to withhold all or part of the BEP funding, if, in fact, a shortfall exists.

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