PHOTO: District 4 Commissioner Gregg Lawrence shows the math behind the BEP funding formula for average state schools funding compared with state funding in the county/ Photo by Brooke Wanser
By BROOKE WANSER
At a short County Commission meeting Monday night, commissioners voted unanimously to support state legislation to modify the Basic Education Program funding.
This will provide Williamson County a fair share of state funding for education, as well as six other counties.
District 4 Commissioner Gregg Lawrence, who sponsored the bill, said he had been assured by Rep. Charles Sargent’s office that, if passed tonight, they would pass on the resolution to the governor’s office.
The bill, which has been introduced in both the state house and senate, would offer additional funding to county schools. This funding would be introduced over time, with a three percent increase limit per year.
“I commend Commissioner Lawrence for this resolution,” District 9 Commissioner Todd Kaestner, said.
He then went on to explain how the numbers panned out.
“What these two bills would do is they would take us up to 80 percent of the state average, but only in increments of three percent each year,” he said.
He added that it will take the county seven years to climb up to the full funding.
District 6 Commissioner Jeff Ford noted the extra funding is outside BEP dollars.
“Because we’re asking to increase the funding for Williamson County does not decrease the funding for any of the other LEAs (local education agencies) across the state,” he said.
Lawrence said the current amount the state spends on a Williamson County pupil is $3,353 per year. The state average is $4,943. According to Williamson County Schools CFO, Leslie Holman, at 80 percent of the state average, county students would receive an additional $602 per year.
Kaestner and Lawrence believe schools will receive an estimated $25 to $30 million in additional funding after reaching 80 percent of the state’s average.
Lawrence said that Williamson County’s ability to tax citizens more is one reason for the disparity in funding between it and other counties.
Attempts to pass similar legislation in the past have failed. However, Lawrence believes the bills will be passed during this session, before the end of Governor Bill Haslam and Sargent’s final terms.