One month after giving the nod to the Williamson County Schools’ request for a 2022-23 budget of just over $467 million and a 12.7 percent increase from last year, members of the Williamson County Board of Commission voted Monday night to approve the district’s proposed capital needs budget of $12,514,650.
The vote was 20-2 in favor, with two members absent. But as it has in previous years, the request didn’t come without pushback. District 2 Commissioner Judy Herbert made a motion to amend the resolution and lessen the amount to $10 million.
“Every department in the county managed to meet their budget, give their employees a salary increase and pay for their capital items out of their budget,” Herbert said of her reasoning for the amendment. “I feel like the schools should make some kind of effort to do it.”
The issue has come up each of the past several years, and there have been times when commissioners did indeed vote to drop the capital needs request by a couple million dollars or so. But a 17-5 vote against Herbert’s motion for an amendment kept the asking amount in place.
“I will not support decreasing capital funding,” said District 12 member Dana Ausbrooks, who is attorney for Williamson County Schools. “For the past few years that’s what we’ve done — we’ve decreased and decreased and decreased, and it’s catching up with us. We passed a very fiscally sound operating budget, and I have faith in the budget committee. I believe this is a fiscally sound capital request on behalf of schools.”
District 1 commissioner Dwight Jones aligned with Herbert, and was one of the yes votes for the amendment along with Herbert, Betsy Hester of District 2, Sean Aiello of District 11 and Barb Sturgeon of District 8. Jones has sought a decrease in the amount for several years.
“I know we’ve butted heads over this for 12 years now,” Jones said to WCS Superintendent Jason Golden. "I told you I’d rake you over the coals when we got to July. I don’t think $2 million is going to make or break you. I know we’ve done that before. You didn’t flinch when [Herbert made the motion].”
Golden said he respected the position of both Herbert and Jones, but ultimately defended the district’s request.
“In our discussions, each of you have been very upfront and open about our budget process,” Golden said as he addressed commissioners. "Commissioner Herbert told me she was going to make this motion. We’ve had many discussions and I respect her motion. … But I disagree. We believe that what we’ve presented is a conservative approach.”
County commissioners also voted to approve an amount of $40 million for new construction costs at Brentwood Middle School.