Sensing Metro Council members might try to slice school funding, Director of Schools Jesse Register preemptively relayed Thursday that the scenarios he’s heard discussed would have severe consequences.
“We understand some Metro Council members may propose additional school budget cuts of as much as $23 million,” Register said Thursday. “That would be disastrous.”
Under Mayor Karl Dean’s proposed budget and property tax increase, Metro Nashville Public Schools’ budget would be $720.4 million, a $46.5 increase over the current fiscal year. Reducing that figure by $23 million –– essentially in half –– would still give the school district a $23.5 million bump, and thus a net increase.
But it would be significantly less than the budget the nine-member school board endorsed  in April. And Register suggested major decisions would have to be considered, including “outsourcing” some operations.
“Because most district expenses are related to employees, most of the proposed budget cuts affect people,” he said. “Our original budget invested in instruction. Our goal is to protect that investment and programs and services for our children.
“We want to maintain our own transportation, food service and maintenance operations and there are disadvantages to outsourcing them,” Register added. “A cut of this size would force us to consider outsourcing these functions in future years.”
Council members are looking at ways to possibly trim  Dean’s proposed 53-cent property tax increase, and some have discussed trimming the schools’ budget, though not formally.
Among items eliminated under a $23 million cut, he said, would be: a plan to increase the starting salary of teachers from $35,000 to $40,000; a 2 percent pay increase for support staff employees; step-pay raises for teachers and support staff; 90 new teachers that were set to join the district; and central office cuts.
Dean’s proposed $1.71 billion budget and tax plan head to the council’s Budget and Finance Committee for discussion Monday, June 18.