By Steve Hunley

The hallmark of Superintendent of Schools Jim McIntyre’s administration seems to be grand and glorious phraseology along with regular requests to jack up taxes. The superintendent is beginning to sound like a broken record.

McIntyre really seems to believe there’s some chance the County Commission will provide extra money to give teachers a raise. Frankly, the teachers seem little interested in getting a raise from McIntyre and a paltry three people showed up at a recent Commission meeting to tell the Commissioners what meanies they are. Commissioners seemed not only unimpressed, but somewhat lethargic about having to engage in a song and dance when nobody is even tapping his feet. There’s really no one in Knox County who believes the County Commission will raise taxes to give McIntyre what he wants, which is largely just a show to create the illusion that McIntyre actually cares about teachers. Nobody is supposed to ponder the fact he hasn’t given a hoot about them previously, nor is anybody supposed to wonder about the coincidental timing of his sudden interest only after the teachers have openly rebelled. It’s less a genuine concern than a tactic to lull the teachers into silence, if not submission.

The fact that we don’t know just how much money will be coming from the State of Tennessee makes a bad situation somewhat even worse and reveals a serious flaw in the budgeting process utilized by McIntyre and the Board of Education. For years the school system has been calculating and presenting their budget to County Commission prior to knowing exactly what revenue will be coming from the state. There’s nothing legally binding them from presenting a budget to Knox County Commission later in the year, especially after the state legislature has adjourned.

This same show seems to be recurring with alarming frequency annually. Superintendent McIntyre always seems to find that he needs more and more money. Then, he and the majority of the Board of Education come across the street to demand bigger and bigger budgets from County Commission who has the responsibility for setting the tax rate. McIntyre and his rubber stamp minions have the best of all worlds. They constantly ask for more money and higher taxes while having no responsibility to pay for their own wants and needs. Each year McIntyre cries he’s developing a culture of excellence in the schools and deluded members of the Board trot down to harangue the Commissioners that we need to make an investment in education. Considering we presently spend over half a billion dollars yearly on schools in Knox County, one has to wonder, just what dollar figure constitutes a commitment from taxpayers that would ever satisfy McIntyre and the Board?

At what point do the Chamber of Commerce, the Knoxville News Sentinel, and the elitists who want to control everybody and everything realize that each and every time McIntyre has gone before the Commission for more money, he’s come away empty-handed? These folks can only blame the Commissioners for so long before they have to consider the possibility that neither Mayor Burchett nor the Commission either respect McIntyre nor do they think he’s done a particularly good job of managing the schools and the millions of extra dollars that he’s been given since he took over as superintendent.

It takes no real ability to administer any organization or entity that gets a pretty big increase in its operating budget yearly; the real test of an able administrator is what can he or she do with whatever resources are available?

McIntyre’s experience as the Assistant Superintendent for Finance of Boston Public School System was heralded as a great qualification when he was hired by the Knox County School Board. With tax revenues down and any additional taxes unpopular, we are about to find out if McIntyre is as good a finance guru as everybody thought he was when he was hired. Let’s just hope that his actual experience in school financial matters is far greater than his actual classroom teaching experience.

Since he has been superintendent, McIntyre has arbitrarily made decisions that have inflated the school budgets without any regard for paying for them in the long term. He has spent millions on studies and consultants and yet doesn’t seem to think he should be held accountable for wasting money.

A superintendent of schools needs to be able to run an efficient school system on what funds are available without resorting to reaching into the taxpayers’ pocketbook every year. An annual cry for more money doesn’t lend itself to credibility and eventually the Chamber, the Sentinel and even the Board of Education are going to have to come to the conclusion that if they want more money from the County Commission, they may need to find a new Director of Schools.

It is pretty obvious to anybody paying attention that Mayor Burchett isn’t going to raise taxes throughout his tenure; furthermore, the newly elected County Commissioners appear to be more conservative than their predecessors. Like it or not, McIntyre is going to have to finally show us his finance management skills and try to actually watch how he spends our money.