Schools Director Responds To $3M Extra In Strapped Budget
by Adam Ghassemi
GALLATIN, Tenn. – Director of Sumner County Schools Del Phillips decided to delay the school year when it was obvious the district's budget wouldn't be decided in time.
"There's absolutely no way that you can start a business when you're $7.6-million dollars out of balance. It's just not feasible," said Phillips said during an interview Monday.
The back-and-forth between the Sumner County School Board and the County Commission sparked a flood of attention, but now the kids are in class, and the district still doesn't have an approved budget.
These days Phillips is responding to recent allegations that more than $3-million suddenly appeared in their budget after weeks of begging the county for more funding.
"If they have been engaged in the process they will clearly see that it's impossible to find something that was always there," he said.
Of the $3,228,864 in question, Phillips says the district first allocated $1,050,000 from its own reserve in early August. Then, last week, $1,100,000 was put in to settle a lawsuit over teacher insurance premiums.
$438,284 came from revenue schools make in after school child care that can't be used for the deficit. That leaves $640,580 in savings the district didn't realize it had until closing out its books late last month.
"Because we didn't spend every dollar within each line item we were able to have that $640,580 to put toward utilities and things we are going to need to run our schools this coming year," Phillips went on to explain.
Phillips says instead of worrying about line items this is just a distraction from the real problem: why Sumner Co. schools aren't getting the funding he thinks they deserve.
"I think we're down to the point now where we probably we can't guarantee that it will not impact the classroom," he said.
The Commission could approve the latest budget Monday night, which would still cut $2.5 million, nearly half of that would be positions, possibly teachers.
Some people feel the district must work within its budget, but Phillips says they will just keep facing the same problem year after year until they're funded properly.
Commissioners already put a $25 wheel tax on the November ballot for people to decide if they want to give the district additional money. Voters overwhelming defeated a similar proposal in March.