Latest County School Budget Cuts Most Student Fees, Adds Literacy Aides; Across-The-Board Increase Stays At 2.5%

Thursday, July 18, 2019

County School officials on Thursday presented a revised budget that eliminates most school fees and adds 10 literacy aides.

The employee pay increase remains at 2.5 percent - short of the five percent that was included in the initial budget requiring a 34-cent property tax increase. That tax rise was rejected 5--4 by the County Commission.

Board member Tucker McClendon put out an idea for giving teachers a $1,500 one-time bonus instead of the pay increase and providing more of the support positions that were in the original budget. He said a number of teachers were willing to forego the raise to get more help in the classroom.

However, other board members said many more teachers wanted the raises rather than one-time bonuses.

The latest budget proposal includes using $1 million of fund balance.

Board member Rhonda Thurman said using one-time funds "doesn't make sense. You'll go bankrupt doing this." She said teachers are in dire need of the raise, and she said she questions the effectiveness of literacy coaches. She said a bonus "does nothing for keeping up with the pay of other counties or for teacher recruitment."

Ms. Thurman also said making the 2.5 percent across the board and including all employees meant that the pay gap would continue to widen between teachers and administrators.

With the 2.5 percent increase, the least pay boost would be $1,074 and the most would be $1,737.

Cost of the 2.5 percent pay increase is $6 million. It includes some state funds.

The budget also includes putting $2.7 million into "step" increases.

The total budget would go to $411 million - up from $390.1 million.

The budget includes 126 new positions, including 42 special education assistants transferred from a federal program as well as 15 special education assistants and five special education teachers.

There are 43 staffing model growth teaching positions.

Brent Goldberg said the schools fund balance was at $41 million and it should wind up at $37 million after funds were taken out for capital projects and covering most fees and new income was counted.

On the fees, Mr. Goldberg said the schools would still ask for a $30 art, science and technology fee.

 


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