Superintendent Rick Smith said Thursday that when he took office, only 51 percent of the budgeted money went directly to schools. Now, he said the number is closer to 75 percent.
He told County School Board members at a budget meeting, "I want the dollars where the kids are," adding, "I think our dollars are spent much more wisely now than ever before."
As the idea of a tax increase has been unpopular with the County Commission and many Hamilton County residents, the School Board discussed its options for trimming down the budget to get the money it needs.
Superintendent Smith said, "We still don't have a system where our revenue increases, where that front page matches the inflation in our budget. Trying to manage the inflation and make this thing balance is a challenge."
One thing the Board is doing is requesting an additional year for the Race to the Top money from the state.
Director of Accounting and Budgeting Christie Jordan said, "We're requesting a year 5 carryover from Race to the Top. We are proposing to ask the state is to carry $11 million of that into the next year to finish that."
Board Member Greg Martin said, "We're not asking for more money, we're just asking for more time."
Mr. Martin also said the Board should advocate for more specific needs in the future. He said, "I think we get criticized a lot for just asking for a blank check."
Board Member Rhonda Thurman suggested cutting back on ineffective school programs to save money.
She said, "Some of these programs have been around since I've been there and no one has ever been able to say whether they work or not." She quoted Ronald Reagan, saying, "The closest thing to eternal life on this earth is a government program."
Director Jordan said, "We're taking a lower number of people and doing an increasing number of things. You better be getting something back for every person you have in the budget."