Sullivan County mayor accuses BOE of ‘playing political games’ over school funding

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BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable says the county Board of Education is “playing political games” with taxpayers over school system funding.

This comes after the school system told employees it may have to cancel school and suspend operations because the county’s school budget, which was approved by the county commission, does not meet state minimum funding requirements.

RELATED: Director: Sullivan Co. schools may have to suspend operations, cancel school over budget issue

Venable issued this statement Friday afternoon:

It is with the deepest of regret today that we find the Sullivan County Board of Education playing political games with Sullivan County taxpayers and even their own employees by continuing to pursue a political fight over a piece of paper using an arbitrary budget projection.

The Sullivan County Commission acted responsibly and constitutionally in fully funding the school budget at $86 million dollars based on a projected state funding number that follows historical precedent.

Seeking a blank check from the taxpayers of Sullivan County, the Board of Education picked its own lower BEP projection to insert in its current budget and then cried to the state that the Sullivan County Commission had not fully funded their budget request.

The Constitution of the State of Tennessee gives the power of the purse to the Sullivan County Commission, not the Board of Education, and we will continue to work through these details with the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury and the Board of Education.

The bottom line for parents and students and employees is this. The School Department has all the funding and reserves it needs to fulfill its mandate to educate our young people. In the meantime Sullivan County government is committed to work together with a cooperative School Board to resolve this Constitutional issue. 

-Richard Venable, Mayor of Sullivan County

Venable also sent this letter to county commissioners (app users, click here):

RELATED: Sullivan County Commission to hold called meeting on school funding issue

The school board chairman, Michael Hughes, pushed back saying “We feel very confident that we’re correct. And the Department of Education and State Comptrollers agree- we do not meet maintenance of efforts as defined by law.”

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