Sullivan schools still headed for shutdown?

Rick Wagner • Oct 1, 2019 at 10:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County school system officials say they are trying to clear the air on various issues surrounding a Tennessee decision that county funding doesn’t meet the state’s maintenance of effort requirements. School system information includes a new fact sheet posted online Tuesday afternoon.

The state Department of Education has determined the Sullivan County Commission did not meet maintenance of effort for the local government in funding an $83 million school budget approved by the school board in April. The state will decide on Oct. 8 whether a more than $4 million state monthly payment to the school system will be made. That payment would come on Oct. 15.

The Sullivan County Commission has a called meeting for 6 p.m. Wednesday, and the school board meets in regular session Thursday with a called meeting set for Tuesday, Oct. 8. The school board could decide to address revenue projections, sue the County Commission or take other actions at its meetings. The commission could take budget action at its meeting.

With no action, Director of Schools David Cox said the school system would have to shut down in about four weeks or roughly Nov. 12, as outlined in a frequently asked question section on the school system website. It costs approximately $500,000 a school day to operate the school system.

To fix the maintenance of effort issue, county officials want the school system to reduce a projected 2% loss in “city-county split” revenues to 1%, while school system officials say current attendance numbers point more toward a 3% loss. Each percentage point is worth $875,000 in funding, and the amount the commission did not fund that was subject to maintenance of effort is $800,000.   


Cox and Business Manager Ingrid DeLoach said no one factor accounts for the declining number of students in Sullivan County. Recent numbers have been 1% or less, but school officials said this school year is looking more like a 3% loss.


“The senior class of 2019 had an enrollment of 757 students. The fall kindergarten class of 2019 has an enrollment of 644 students, for a difference of 113 students. Declining enrollment is a historic trend.”

Sullivan County student daily attendance on Sept. 27, 2017, was 9,306 students, on that date in 2018 attendance was 9,072 students and that date this year was 8,660 students.