School Budget Step Closer to Final Passage

May 26, 2023
By: Dwayne Page

DeKalb County teachers and support staff are a step closer to getting pay raises.

During a meeting Tuesday night, the budget committee voted to recommend passage of the 2023-24 school budget to the full county commission this summer.

Director of Schools Patrick Cripps presented the school budget to the committee.

“The biggest change in our budget from the previous year is we are giving our certified teachers a $3,000 raise and our non-certified staff a $2,000 increase in pay,” said Director Cripps.

“The Governor wants to get the starting salary of teachers (statewide) to be at $50,000 a year. Our teachers are currently at $47,000 (starting salary) and its going to go to $50,000 (statewide) by 2026 but we want to jump ahead ($50,000) now because the field of education is all about competition and we want to be able to recruit teachers to come into our area and one way to do that is to increase salaries. Right now we are the envy of the Upper Cumberland,” said Director Cripps. “ Our starting salary for teachers is currently $47,000 and that puts us in the top five percent in the state so kudos to the county and school board. I truly believe you get what you pay for and if you look at our test results for the last couple of school years, we are seeing improvement in student achievement and student grades. Our ACT results have been climbing and we have many more programs in place now for our students to be career ready. We set goals each year for our ACT program. ACT is our money test and what I mean by that is ACT is what gets kids into college and trade schools and that’s what generates money for them (students) so we have seen an increase in our ACT scores the last few years and this year, for the first time we saw an increase in our subtests and our composite scores so kudos to the high school. DeKalb West School was a Reward School, a level 5 school in growth, and the high school and middle school were level 4’s. We are also making progress in our other schools, and I truly believe we will be able to get them to a level 4 school as well,” said Director Cripps.

With the new budget year will come a change in the state education funding formula.

The Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) public school funding formula updates the way Tennessee funds public education for the first time in over 30 years to empower each student to read proficiently by third grade, prepare each high school graduate for postsecondary success, and provide resources needed to all students to ensure they succeed.

The TISA updates the way Tennessee invests in public education by moving to a student-based funding formula, which includes:

•A base funding amount for every public-school student.

•Additional weighted funding to address individual student needs like those students who may be low-income, have a disability, be gifted, have characteristics of dyslexia, or live in a sparse community.

•Additional direct funding intended to support students in key priority areas like early literacy, CTE programming, and high-dosage tutoring.

•Outcome incentives based on student achievement to empower schools to help all students reach their full potential.

Director Cripps explained to the budget committee how the new TISA funding formula will impact the local school district.

“It’s a totally new format for us as far as funding. In the past it was called the Basic Educational (BEP) plan. This is the first year of the TISA plan. That will totally change funding in how we receive our money,” explained Director Cripps.

“In the past the state would give us funding based on the number of students in the school system no matter what kinds of needs they (students) had everybody generated the same amount of funds. It was based on the number of students”.

“TISA generates totally different. Each student is a baseline of $6,800. What it does separately from the Basic Education Plan is it has unique learning needs, special education needs and there is a list of them from 1-10 and those generate a percentage of funding off of the $6,800. You can gain more money for success in schools, doing well on the ACT or passing the third grade in reading tests, or meeting other benchmarks as far as state testing. On the flip side of that, third graders will also generate money for those who didn’t pass the tests and for those in K-2 or K-3 Literacy”.

“We were supposed to have training from the state on how this budget is to be administered but unfortunately the state has not provided that to us yet and these (state funding) numbers are not yet final but even with the BEP plan we didn’t get our final numbers until July. We don’t expect the final numbers to vary greatly from what we are showing right now,” Cripps continued.

Director Cripps outlined other (new spending) highlights in the 2023-24 school budget:

*Tutoring: ($82,500) state funding to tutor students who failed to pass third grade testing. (Amount could change)

*K-3 Literacy: ($439,272) state funding for support and tutoring students in K-3 Literacy

* Local funding to replace approximately $100,000 in federal funding for one teacher, five educational assistants, and one secretary in the Special Education Program.

*Career and Technical Education Program: State (TISA) funding for new Marketing Instruction Program teaching position.

*Local funding for projected 2% increase in employee Medical Insurance premiums

Capital Outlay: Local funding of $400,000 to purchase and install new bleachers and a retaining wall at the DCHS soccer field.

Total school budget expenditures for 2023-24 comes to $29,815,625. The fund balance (cash reserves) as of July 1 is projected at $12,307,672 with a fund balance expected to be $10,472,269 by June 30, 2024. The school district is budgeted to dip into its fund balance if needed by up to $1,835,402 during the year to meet budget by year’s end.

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