As Metro Nashville Council works to approve the city’s fiscal year 2020-21 operating budget before the June 30 deadline, the Metro Nashville Public Schools board is seeking $15 million more for the district than what is being proposed by Mayor John Cooper.
The board's $929.4 million budget request for FY 2020-21 was approved unanimously during the school board's specially-called virtual meeting on May 19.
Cooper's proposed $2.4 billion operating budget includes $914.9 million for schools. Without the additional $15 million, MNPS Chief Operating Officer Chris Henson said the district will likely face cuts to school-level budgets as well as district-provided services, which include utility costs, transportation, maintenance and custodial services.
“More than likely, it's going to be school positions that will have to be reduced because that's what the vast majority of school budgets cover,” Henson said. “Just like the entire district, about 80% [of the budget is dedicated to] salaries and benefits. It's probably a higher percentage at schools. I'm not able to speculate in detail, but we're probably needing schools to look at how many positions they have to have to be able to operate.”
District 8 school board member Gini Pupo-Walker, who represents schools in Green Hills and surrounding areas, said MNPS should ask Metro Council to find the additional $15 million in funding before the district begins identifying additional cuts. In recent cost saving measures, the board voted to close four schools as part of a consolidation plan, which officials have said will save the district nearly $3.5 million during the upcoming fiscal year.
“One of the things [MNPS] has done more than any other district in the state is drive our funding down to the schools and give discretion to principals to invest dollars as they see fit based on the needs [of each school],” Pupo-Walker said. “If we were to approve a budget looking for that $15 million to come from us, I think there's no way getting around asking schools to carry some of that burden ... [Metro Council] has not made a final decision on their budget, and I think it's in our best interest to see if there's a place where they can find that $15 million for us.”
Under Cooper’s proposed budget, the funds allocated for MNPS would remain flat year over year, with an increase of less than $500,000 initially included in the district’s FY 2019-20 budget.
In a series of community meetings held in February, MNPS officials presented a proposed budget for the 2020-21 school year that included an overall budget ask of $950.2 million, a 3% increase over the previous year, which officials previously said is what is needed to maintain schools.
“This is not the budget the administration was building before the COVID-19 crisis, but it’s the one we can afford to do now,” Metro Nashville Finance Director Kevin Crumbo said in a budget presentation April 29. “Regrettably, a large portion of our sales tax revenue and our related cash receipts dedicated to schools will not be received due to the crisis. Between now and the time we can replace that cash flow with property tax cash flow, [MNPS] must reduce its spending.”
MNPS officials will present the district's budget request to Metro Council's budget and finance committee at 4:30 p.m. May 21.
Residents can watch the budget hearing, which will be held virtually due to social distancing protocols in place, on Comcast channel 3, AT&T Uverse channel 99 and Google Fiber channel 3 and online through Metro Nashville Network.