Kingsport and Bristol, TN schools looking to cut spending


KINGSPORT, Tenn. - City schools in Sullivan County are tightening their belts after the county commission cut funding last week.

The impact on Kingsport schools may not be as severe as anticipated, but Kingsport parents and school officials are still frustrated that the county is removing funding that schools had included in their budgets.

"I think there could've been other ways to handle the shortfalls coming about," Lora Barnett, a Kingsport parent, said. "They could've increased the property taxes a couple cents extra. They could have decreased some of their spending and budgeting in other areas."

Both the Kingsport and Bristol, Tennessee boards of education learned about the potential cuts without notice and after they had already set funding.

"I found out about it when I was still on vacation," Kingsport Board of Education President Susan Lodal said. "I started immediately making contact with people. We were working together to try to understand first how will this impact us, what are those numbers actually going to be, because we weren't sure at the beginning"

Fortunately for Kingsport, they have a $5.5 million funding surplus. That money is usually kept for one-time or unforeseen expenses, such as repairs and renovations.

"We had a pretty good budget in fiscal year '17," Kingsport Schools Chief Financial Officer David Frye said. "So we do have a fund balance that we can fall back on to offset some reductions in revenue that we didn't foresee coming"

Administrators are already beginning to make cuts though.

"We've put a hold on $175,000 with of teacher computers that need to be upgraded," Frye said. "We don't want to fall behind on that because computers have a lifetime of three to five years"

Kingsport education officials say adjustments likely won't involve personnel. Bristol, Tennessee officials are also evaluating ways to cut spending.