The Board of Education won’t know until at least next week whether it’s proposed budget for 2018-19 which includes a $3,000 pay raise for teachers will meet with the approval of the county commission’s budget committee.
Director of Schools Patrick Cripps met with County Mayor Tim Stribling and members of the budget committee Monday evening at the courthouse to formally make the request on behalf of the board. Even if the committee recommends the proposal, the county commission would have to approve it in July.
The budget committee will meet again Thursday, May 31 at 5:30 p.m. at the courthouse to crunch the numbers with the county’s financial consultant Steve Bates before giving the school board an answer.
During a brief special called meeting last Wednesday, May 16 the Board of Education approved a proposed budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year which includes pay raises for teachers and support staff.
If approved, the actual local increase for the 228 teachers would be $2,400 each since the state is funding a $600 raise per teacher. Non-certified staff would get a $1,500 pay raise, all funded by local dollars.
In his meeting with the budget committee Monday night, Director of Schools Cripps said DeKalb County is not keeping pace with other counties in the rate of pay for teachers and they (teachers) are getting harder to come by.
“We didn’t just throw out a $3,000 figure. When we got our preliminary (Basic Education Program) BEP money, the April statement showed that we are right at $1,800 below the average state salary. The average is $44,024 and we are at $42,287. We all know that last year our insurance went up tremendously across the board and everyone (teachers) was wanting big help in their insurance but when you look long range what is going to help their retirement it is their highest five years of salary. That is what their retirement is based on. With the increase in salary that will help offset some of their costs as far as insurance with the $3,000 per teacher and $1,500 for non-certified employees,” said Director Cripps.
Budget committee member Jerry Adcock said he figured the school board’s request for salaries and other new spending if approved could require a property tax rate increase of more than 37 cents. Adcock said he had concerns about the burden such an increase might place on taxpayers living on fixed incomes.
Director Cripps said he is aware that the board’s request comes at a price but he has to also look out for teachers.
“I want to take care of my teachers because here is my fear. There is a shortage of teachers anyway. Three years ago there were 12,000 teachers coming out of colleges. Now it’s like 6,000. With Wilson County and Cookeville booming, we can’t compete with their salaries or their benefits. I’ve got to let them (teachers) know I am fighting for them. I know it’s a huge amount to ask for but to get the best people in here we’re going to have to start paying better,” said Director Cripps.
Asked about how many teachers the school district employs above the BEP requirements, Director Cripps it is about 30. “We’re around 30 positions above BEP but you never know what is going to happen. We had three kids to enroll with hearing issues and we had to hire three interpreters ,” he said.
In addition to asking for pay raises for personnel, the Board of Education wants more money to purchase Chrome Books for the 3rd through 5th grades at a cost of $240,000. Students from the 6th grade through high school already have Chrome Books. Extra funds ($20,000) would be included to repair and replace existing Chrome Books.
Cripps said $215,000 is needed to buy new textbooks. “This is a big change in our budget. This year is science adoption and that is K-12. We have to get new books for every student. The average book is $150,” he said.
New funding ($25,000) is also requested to implement a Dyslexia Program to help children at the elementary school grade level in reading. “The state is really pushing for testing of dyslexia and they are going to start holding us accountable for identifying our students that may have this issue. That program would be in K-2. It will help with reading and identify struggles kids may have,” said Director Cripps.
The proposed budget includes $10,000 in new spending for meeting mandates of state evaluation and testing.
“The state mandates that we have a Response to Intervention (RTI) to see where students skills are as far as remediation in math, English, and reading and what we need to do to meet those students needs. With that you have to buy materials to test them. A universal screener. That costs $12 for each student per test in grades K-8 and that’s three times (per month). We check them throughout the month in between those three times to see the progress they are making,” Director Cripps said.
Due to the increasing demands of technology, the board wants to make a current half time computer tech position full time ($16,000 in new money) which would give the school system three techs.
One new bus is usually purchased each year. The board wants to buy two new school buses this year. That would be an extra expense to the system of $100,000.
Extra funds are also included for employee matching benefits and $2,500 to help schools cover their phone bills. “We have added $500 per school to assist with phone charges at the schools since they have to pay for their own phone bills,” said Director Cripps.
The proposed new spending for schools in this budget comes to more than $1.7 million dollars over expenditures budgeted this past year. Unless cuts are made or more money is taken from the school system’s fund balance/reserves to balance the budget, a significant property tax hike might be needed to fund the school board’s request.