Monday, June 8, 2015

'The Jim & Tim Show' announce changes to the proposed budget; the good, bad, whatever and looking ahead

McIntyre, left, Burchett, right
By now I suspect everyone has heard about the little Kumbaya the county mayor and superintendent had this afternoon when the two got together to announce major changes to the proposed $747.2 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Superintendent Jim McIntyre even joked about how the media often calls it the "Jim Vs. Tim Show." Or some such nonsense. Heh. Yeah, actually it's true, and for his sake I hope he doesn't expect today's dog and pony show to do away with it.

Folks, these two do not get along. And they will find other things to fight about.

But, for today they did. Get along. I suppose.

Anyhoo, we've got stories RIGHT SMACK HERE. I was off today, so I took a leisurely nap while the hoopla took place and now get to armchair quarterback.

Why? 'Cause I'm obnoxious.

So, at the heart of the proposals is a plan to build schools in the Hardin Valley and the Gibbs community. But, not one in north central Knox County.

There will be no tax increase. The county will have more control over the school system's purse strings (old, old consent decree be damned). Teachers will get a 2 percent raise. The mayor will phase out his reading program. The A.J. Building will be put up for sale.



There's more, of course, but you can check out WBIR - hey, we'll have stories all day today - for the most complete coverage.

That said, this isn't some touchy, feely blog where we give out compliments. Heck no! We enjoy entertainment at other peoples' expense on the 'ol Porch.

So, let's look at this plan. There are lots and lots of problems.

The proposal will build a school for a community that does not need it. End of argument. Disagree, whatever, I don't care. The proponents of this school say the bus routes are long, their children spend hours getting carted to and from school, etc. Guess what? It's worse elsewhere.

Others say that building a school in East Knox County will encourage growth and development. Guess what? School systems aren't in the business to encourage development. I'm respectfully disagreeing here with Knox County Commissioner Dave Wright who will tell you - and he'll do it convincingly - otherwise.

Hardin Valley needs a school. So does North Central Knoxville, or Knox County, or wherever it was McIntyre proposed building one. Rezoning isn't going to work, and the students aren't just going to disappear by not building it.

Why didn't this school get thrown into the mix? Blame the parents, blame the representation (on the school board and the county commission). Squeaky wheel and all that. Sit on your hands and do nothing, you get nothing.

The folks out in East Knox County know how to petition leadership. Heck, they got a Carter Elementary school built a few years ago (although they did need one).

Now, the county could be on the hook for $9 million to build Gibbs. Since the county's purchasing department - under Burchett's management - will oversee the bidding, building, whatever, I suspect the school will be built for under $25 million, rather than the "up to $30 million" proposal. (The school system covers the rest.)

That said, if the county is on the hook for $9 million, that really means the county is on the hook for about 18 million. Bonds. Interest. 20 years.

OK, so we build schools - how do we pay to operate them (as much as $6 million a year)? Well, supposedly school debt is falling off. So, as long as the school system doesn't increase it's capital budget, then they can use that money.

Yeah, well, don't forget that elementary school in North Central Knox that we still need.

I don't buy it. No, here's what probably happens. The schools come online in a couple years when Burchett is out of office and there's a push for a tax increase to cover these costs.

Also under the plan, McIntyre will cut $1 million in administrative costs. Whatever that means. Maybe he'll quit putting employees on paid administrative leave for years on end. Maybe he'll get rid of his buddies. Maybe he'll quit handing out raises and calling them promotions.


Either way, it could be a sticking point if the Board of Education doesn't like his proposed cuts.

And they might not. The dude tried to save a ton of coin years ago by outsourcing custodians and that went over like a lead balloon. (That was actually a compliment by the way.)

Today's proposal, however, might - I said "might" - make for a headache free budget session next year, and for a few more years to come. You see under the plan, McIntyre won't put together a budget that goes above and beyond revenue projections, like he has a number of times in the past couple of years.

But - BUT - the county finance is charged with coming up with those projections and the KCS school system must approve them. So, there's THAT. And THAT is called an escape clause. (Burchett's people are ultra conservative when it comes to revenue projections. Note all the surplus coin each year.)

Further, we're talking about two entities (county-school) that don't agree on a lot when it comes to dollars, cents and sense.

Still, Burchett can buckle down and start running for another office without having to worry about getting dinged on school issues. (The memorandum of understanding that Burchett and McIntyre created ends when he leaves his mayoral post. That shouldn't be lost on anyone.)

Further, the county now has some control over the school system's purse strings. Not a lot, but there were some concessions made today.

Look, I could complain about this all day, and some will. Today's announcement is gonna get a lot of play in the media, and rightly so.

And within a month, I suspect we'll see the return of the true "Jim and Tim Show."

But, well, screw it. They get today.

So, congratulations for trying to work together and better the county and the school system.

Too bad it wasn't done earlier.


I'm out.

1 comment:

Jennifer Owen said...

McIntyre is scrambling to find ANYTHING to help people forget his illegal grant acceptance, and the fact that he KNOWINGLY covered it up for an entire year. I'm a little surprised the mayor isn't looking at that more closely. (I thought crimes against the government were bad.) Hopefully, others will. This would be a really good time for a complete forensic audit of the entire school system.