Rhonda Thurman: Schools Should Put Any Extra Money Into Maintenance; This Is Not The Time For Raises - And Response

Sunday, May 3, 2020

On April 30, the School Board voted 6-3 to approve a revised $417 million budget. The budget was revised to cut over $3 million from the original $420 budget request. Those cuts included $2.8 million in step increases for teachers, $300,000 in 2 Central office positions, $600,000 to continue our current custodial contract (instead of putting it out for bids), canceling maintenance vehicle leasing and freezing all non-teacher hiring and purchasing.

I voted against the budget because it included $6 million in a new literacy adoption.

I felt like the adoption was too expensive and would require teachers to take a lot of Professional Development at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. I fell like teachers are already going to have enough issues to deal with when school starts in August, considering that students missed months of school this year.

On Friday afternoon, May 1, the school board was notified by Albert Kiser, Administrator of Hamilton County Finance, that HCDE would have to add back $1.8 million to our budget to eliminate a maintenance of effort issue for Hamilton County government. However, if revenues do not come in as expected, the school board may have to meet later in the year and cut the budget, yet again.

Another called budget session to vote on the second budget revision is scheduled for 5:30, Monday, May 4. This budget session is to add $1.8 million back to the 2020-2021 budget. The superintendent is requesting that we add back the step increases for teachers at a cost of $2.8 million. This will take the $1.8 million from the county as well as the $1 million we were going to put into our Fund Balance.

I will be voting against this second revised budget as well. Instead of putting this $1.8 million and the additional $1 million intended for Fund Balance, into step raises, I think the entire $2.8 million should go into Fund Balance to be spent on maintenance issues or small capital projects. The school system has spent the last year and $500,000 taxpayer money for a consultant group to tell Hamilton County citizens what dismal shape our school buildings are in. I think it is time we take all of the extra money we can find and put it back into our school buildings. This $2.8 million would be like throwing a piece of luggage off the Titanic but, it could knock a few things off our deferred maintenance list. Then, if revenues do not come in as expected, and we again, have to call a meeting to cut the budget, we could take the $2.8 million out of fund balance and put it where it is needed. If revenues do come in, then, we could spend the $2.8 million and any additional monies, to get some much-needed maintenance projects done.

Teachers received a $1,200 bonus on November 22, a $500 bonus on October 25, and a 2.5% raise in February. This current revised 2020-2021 budget includes the 2.5% raise they were given in February. It does not include a step increase that was requested in the original 2020-2021 budget, which is usually about 1% costing $2.8 million.

I feel at this time, a raise of any amount for any one, is not right given the current economic climate a majority of Hamilton County residents find themselves. I cannot ask taxpayers to fund a salary increase when so many are out of work and may not have a job to go back to. By putting the additional $1.8 million into Fund Balance for possible maintenance/capital needs, and leaving the $1 million we have budgeted to be put there, we can possibly take care of some school building issues that directly affect students.

I will be putting this idea forth in a motion at the budget session on Monday. I may not get a second. I guess we will see.

Rhonda Thurman

* * * 

Although I don’t know Ms. Thurman personally I’ve kept up with her views and post over the years.  I must say I’ve been totally impressed.

Being a small business owner I see the constant suction of our tax dollars and never see any tax bills rescinded after projects are completed and paid for.

I really appreciate Ms. Thurman’s work and commitment to the school board with common sense and a watchful eye on non essential spending like the $500,00 proposed exploratory expense and much more.  Wonder who is getting a little kick back on that one?

Rhonda, I’m asking you to do the citizens of Chattanooga a huge favor – “Run for Mayor”.

Michael Mansfield


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