Franklin Special School District projects no budget deficit despite 2018-19 financial challenges

Faced with a loss in sales tax revenue, back property tax reimbursements and an unexpected mold outbreak, officials with the Franklin Special School District said they expect to be able to cover costs for the 2019-20 school year.

The FSSD board of education met for the first of three budget workshops April 22 to discuss background information for this year's budget as well as changes from the previous school year.

According to Chuck Arnold, associate director of schools for FSSD, the district was faced with multiple financial challenges during the last school year, totaling $1.79 million in unexpected costs or losses:

  • In March, the district learned it would not receive a portion of gifted sales tax revenue following a misunderstanding between the city of Franklin, FSSD and Williamson County, resulting in a loss of about $1 million, which the district is still working to contest, according to budget documents.

  • In 2018, the Tennessee State Board of Equalization ruled Vanderbilt University Hospital, which has property within FSSD boundaries, would be exempt from paying property taxes because it is a teaching hospital. This ruling resulted in a repayment from the district of property taxes from the last ten years, totaling about $900,000.

  • In July 2018, a mold outbreak was discovered at Liberty Elementary School. The cost to clean and replace items in the school, as well as inspect FSSD facilities, totaled more than $700,000, according to budget documents.


While FSSD had not budgeted for any of these events, Arnold said the district will still be close to meeting expenses for its 2019-20 budget. FSSD officials said property tax revenue will fall about $80,000 short of projected revenue, while sales tax revenue collections could be $50,000-$60,000 more than projected in the 2018-19 budget.

"So essentially, we may be close to meeting our budget for those major revenue items," Arnold said. "That is good news."

Arnold said the district could use between $750,000-$1 million from the district's general fund to close the gap and cover expenditures.

"Our pattern for the last seven years has been to overcollect items, which has increased the district's fund balance—that will not be the case with 2018-19," Arnold said. "This could not have been anticipated; however, [the board's] conservative and prudent financial management in the past allowed FSSD to continue its normal operations next year in spite of these extraordinary events because we began the year with almost $6 million in fund balance. Hopefully, the robust Williamson County economy will allow us to return to normal patterns of spending in 2019-20 and beyond."

FSSD will host two more budget workshops before approving the 2019-20 budget. The next meeting, which will cover personnel budgets, school-based expenditures and capital projects, will be held May 20. The final meeting, to be held June 17, will cover revenue and expenditure projections.
By Wendy Sturges

A Houston native and graduate of St. Edward's University in Austin, Wendy Sturges has worked as a community journalist covering local government, health care, business and development since 2011. She has worked with Community Impact since 2015 as a reporter and editor and moved to Tennessee in 2019.


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