Mayor Bob Rial says the Tennessee Department of Education is reviewing the county’s plan to divert $800,000 in school revenues for a debt payment to see if it meets Maintenance of Effort requirements and that he won’t present the budget for a final vote until he gets that opinion. On Monday’s Power Lunch program, Rial said it makes no sense to pass a budget then wait for a state review that could force changes in the budget. The mayor said once the county commission sets the tax rate for the year, it cannot change it. If the commission sets the budget and tax rate tonight, then the Department of Education rules against the county plan, it would leave the county no choice but to make up that lost $800,000 in anticipated revenue from the county’s reserves. Without the tax rate set, if the county loses that debt payment, it could still increase property taxes to make up the difference, which could be a 9-10-cent increase. On the other hand, if the state determines that the diversion does satisfy MOE, then he said the school system will know that he expects to budget another debt payment next year, despite the school board’s vote to rescind the 1999 debt payment agreement. Rial said if he has not heard back from the state Department of Education prior to tonight’s scheduled meeting, he will recommend waiting another two weeks for a special session on July 29 to vote on the budget and tax rate. Rial also said as long as the $800,000 debt payment remains in place, he anticipates recommending a property tax rate of $2.90, up from the current rate of $2.85 but a reduction from the state’s certified tax rate of $2.93 to generate the same amount of revenue as last year. Rial has said the budget he presented this year anticipated the loss of about three cents worth of revenue to try to offset an expected decrease in property values. If the Department of Education approves the debt payment plan, it will leave the school board short $800,000 in revenue, forcing additional cuts, a bigger hit on the fund balance or a combination of efforts.