For the first time in nearly two decades, the Loudon High School band will have new uniforms next year. In addition, the band may have its own operational budget in the coming year. The Loudon County Board of Education, on a split vote, approved funding up to $28,000 from fund balance for the uniforms.
The band boosters appealed to the board Thursday for funding to proceed with ordering uniforms.
Wendy Baustian, LHS Band Boosters president, said new uniforms were critically needed, but the club does not have time to raise enough money to get them ordered for next year. She asked for a loan of about $20,000 of the estimated cost.
"We're working diligently to raise funds," Baustian said. "We wouldn't be here to ask for your help if we could reach our goal by the deadline. This is so important to our children."
LHS band director Jennifer Conway said the old uniforms are falling apart at the seams and cannot be altered more to fit.
"I know $20,000 may seem like a lot of money, but we will do everything in our power to raise the funds," Conway said. "We don't know exactly what the uniforms will cost, but if it does not take that much, we won't use more than we need."
The band hopes to order 75 uniforms at a cost of about $300-$400 each. The total amount would be $22,500-$30,000. The uniforms would carry a 12-year warranty.
LHS Principal Cheri Parrish said the band teachers had worked hard to build the program. Conway started with 17 band members, and the band has grown to more than 50, she said.
Superintendent Jason Vance said the board has faced some tough decisions for funding in the last few years.
"We don't fund the band the way we should," Vance said. "We should give them a budget. I was talking to a choral teacher from West Tennessee who had $5,000 for chorus, and it is not as expensive."
Bobby Johnson Jr., board chairman, said he did not want the board to have to pick and choose who receives money.
"I love the band, but everywhere I'm from, the band boosters raise the money," Johnson said. "You've done nothing so far to take a bite out of the apple, and I don't want to open Pandora's box ..."
"I don't like the idea of loaning money," Board member Scott Newman said. "We put kids in college through band scholarships. I don't see our kids getting scholarships to UT through football. And, there are only so many fundraisers you can do. People get to where they hate to see our kids coming."
Vice Chairman Ric Best said he did not see how the band boosters could raise the money.
"We haven't given them a budget, so they have no means to repay," Best said. "We take care of our athletes. We need to give the band an opportunity to be self sustaining."
Board member Larry Tate, early in the discussion, made a motion to loan the band boosters the money. Board member Kenny Ridings offered an amendment to fund the uniforms outright.
Board member Gary Ubben agreed. "Education is more than academics. Music and athletics are all part of a child's education," he said.
"I'm not for giving them uniforms," Tate said. "I can't in good conscience give it to them without any effort on their part. How will we decide who else down the road. ... We have roof problems at Highland Park. The well's going to run dry. I am trying to find a workable solution."
One band booster parent, Kevin Manis, said fundraising was not going well. "We're getting doors shut in our face," he said.
The motion to fund the uniforms passed with Newman, Ridings, Ubben, Best, William Jenkins and Buckles voting in favor.
Voting no were Tate, Johnson and Phillip Moffett. Board member Craig Simon was not present.
The board will hold a special called workshop at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the central office building to discuss capital projects.