The County School Board, citing the damaging effect the coronavirus shutdown may have on government revenues, voted 6-3 on Monday night to put $1.8 million into fund balance.
Kathy Lennon, Jenny Hill and Tiffanie Robinson voted no. They wanted to put the amount, plus withdrawing a previous $1 million recently put in fund balance, so teachers could get step pay increases. That costs $2.8 million.
Voting in favor of a motion by board member Joe Smith were Rhonda Thurman, Tucker McClendon, Steve Highlander, Karitsa Jones and Chairman Joe Wingate.
The board had approved a $417 million budget last Thursday, then was told by County Finance Director Albert Kiser that it needed another $1.8 million to meet the maintenance of effort standard. In Tennessee, maintenance of effort laws ensure that local funds budgeted for schools do not decrease as state funding for schools increases.
Ms. Hill said the step increases are "part of the normal process of pay within the career of an educator."
Ms. Robinson said she earlier vowed her support for the step increases and was not going back on it.
Ms. Lennon said a vote for the step increases meant, "We are just holding the line on what we said we would do for them."
Mr. Smith said millions of Tennesseans are out of work and revenues may be low at both the state and local levels.
Ms. Thurman made a motion to put the extra $2.8 million into deferred maintenance, but that did not get a second.
She hit the idea of "teacher raises at a time when many people in the private sector don't even have jobs." Saying some who used to live near the central office "don't even have homes. They don't have toys. We dadgum ought to be ashamed of ourselves talking about teacher raises now."
She added, "I represent the taxpayers. Teachers don't work any harder than anybody else."
Mr. McClendon said he wanted to support the step increases, but he said he was concerning that governments may be facing deep cuts.
He said all the other large county governments in Tennessee are forecasting major revenue reductions, yet Hamilton County is not calling for cuts. He said he is "baffled that we are not getting more guidance from the county on what we can expect."