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Ringgold tax hike expected

| Thursday, May 8, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

When the Ringgold School Board adopts a tentative budget at its May 21 meeting, it is likely to include a 3 mill tax increase to balance the 2014-15 school year spending plan.

That's the opinion of Bill Stein, chairman of the finance committee.

During a budget committee meeting Tuesday, the administration presented a proposed 2014-15 budget that would require that millage increase.

The session Tuesday was the first chance for the budget committee to begin work on the spending plan for next school year.

Stein said the largest increases in the budget are pension cost obligations and health insurance premiums.

“Hopefully, we'll be able to pare that down by the end of June,” Stein said, citing the deadline for passage of the budget.

Stein said the district may have to balance the budget before getting confirmation of what it will receive in state funding.

“We can't count on how the state will ultimately divvy up education funds,” he said. “There's a lot of things still in limbo that will become more finalized by the end of June.”

The school board moved its June regular meeting back a week, to June 25, to await word from the state on funding levels.

The district has reduced staff, through retirements and attrition, over the past few years from 250 teachers to 216 currently.

“We've made significant cuts (in the past few years), so I don't think the administration is going to recommend any significant cuts,” Stein said.

One other uncertainty is the teachers' contract. The teachers have been working without a new contract since the previous pact expired in August.

The two sides are headed to fact finding, beginning May 15, Stein said.

Stein, the board's chief negotiator, said the two sides have agreed not to discuss issues involving the ongoing talks and would not speculate if a new deal will be ironed out before the budget is approved.

Stein said the budget is an ongoing process.

“Hopefully, we can trim one of those mills,” Stein said. “We're going to look over it in the next month and a half and see if we can cut it anywhere.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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