Teachers Raises And Textbooks

Teachers raises and textbooks, teachers raises and textbooks. Anybody who has been even slightly keeping up with the whole county budget mess that's three months past due, has heard it said that the schools need $800,000.00 more for operating expenses all for  teachers raises and textbooks.

School board members who didn't vote for the proposed budget were criticized for not supporting more money for teachers raises and textbooks. Citizens implored county commissioners to support more money for teachers raises and textbooks. Even after commissioners voted not to give more money to the school board, people have criticized commissioners for not supporting the schools by giving more money for teachers raises and textbooks. Well, guess what? It wasn't about teachers raises and textbooks.

After commission said no to more money, the school board administration presented a new budget that would be balanced without additional funding. Remember, school officials had repeatedly stated that the additional $793,000.00 was needed. $430,000.00 for new textbooks and $363,000.00 for teacher raises.

Click Here For Budget Reduction Summery

In reality, the raises that had been included in the original budget would have cost $723,000.00. Nearly the entire cost of of the requested additional funding. Additional funding was never needed for textbooks. They were covered in the budget. The 2% raise would have covered not only the 391 teachers but all 719 school employees.

Commissioners and school board members who didn't support additional funding for the schools have been criticized for not being sensitive to the needs of the children for not supplying money for new textbooks. Now we find out that it was sham.

Here are a few more facts for those who would perpetuate the the notion that the children have no books. In the last five years the school board has spent $1,606,713.00 for textbooks. If you throw in library books for the same time period that amount grows to $1,833,043.00. This year's budget contains $430,000.00 for textbooks and $72,706.00 for library books.

Given the lateness of adopting the budget, commissioners and school board members will, in a few short months, have to be back at the bargaining table working on the next budget. Board members will be asking the same commissioners for funding again. Does anyone really think commissioners will soon forget about the 2010 textbook tactic? Not likely. 

School Board makes cuts
Mary E. Hinds News-Herald
In the aftermath of the county commission's refusal to give the county schools more money for the operating budget, the school board approved a pared down budget on Thursday night.

Director of Loudon County Schools Wayne Honeycutt opened the discussion saying the commission didn't see fit to give the school board more operating funds. Board Chairman Scott Newman reminded the board members of the need to "stay off our soap boxes" and keep the discussion moving forward.

Board member Van Shaver said he wasn't ready to vote on the budget because he needed more time to study the budget cuts being recommended by school administrators. He said since the board had a budget meeting set for next Tuesday evening "why do this tonight?"

Budget Director Alysa Phipps said there will be no Basic Education Program (BEP) funds sent to the county from the state until a budget is passed. She also said the BEP funds are needed to make payroll for county school employees. Shaver said while the funds might be delayed none would be lost if the budget was delayed a few more days.

"That's not a huge factor," Shaver said adding he would like to have the weekend to examine the budget more closely before voting.
Board member Bill Marcus agreed it was "short notice" between board members receiving the budget proposals but he said he had put in a lot of time studying the documents before the meeting.
"I'm prepared to put this to rest tonight," Marcus said. Shaver then moved to postpone the vote until Tuesday night but the board voted to proceed.

The board received a handout from Honeycutt that puts the school operating budget overrun at $792,884 as of Oct. 12.

To make up that deficit, school administrators proposed:
Cutting the 2 percent raise for all county school employees to save $651,802
Cutting Career and Technical Education raises by $11,110
Cutting raises for Technology Supervisors to save $10,173
Cutting raises for assistant principals saving $48,847.

Other factors include an increase in the school's distribution of property tax funds amounting to $44,686 and a 4 percent increase in medical insurance premiums instead of the anticipated and budgeted 10 percent adding $89,696.

The changes leave the system with an anticipated $63,000 surplus. All savings on salaries are estimated to include Social Security, Medicare and retirement contributions. "Taking the raise out covers a lot of it," Honeycutt said.

"Our hands are tied," said board member Gary Ubben of the removal of the 2 percent raise for school employees. He added Loudon County Schools are getting "further and further" behind on teacher salaries and said Lenoir City School teachers got raises this year for doing the same job.  

Honeycutt said the need to cut the raises was "dictated to us" given that the 2 percent raise for all county employees was cut from the county budget on Monday night.  "The intent is that no county employee gets a raise," he said.

Board member Craig Simon said he only wanted to know if everybody was keeping their job? Honeycutt said the budget proposal did not call for cutting any employees but with certified personnel not getting even a minimum step raise he feared "at some point we'll have to double up" on step raises.

He also mentioned Loudon County teacher salaries rank 15 of 17 surrounding school systems. Marcus said he felt the proposed cuts to balance the budget "spreads the pain out to all employees."  

Honeycutt agreed adding "it's sad" and adding "the culture in this county needs to be changed - everybody wants their kids educated but they don't want to pay for it."

After much discussion and a failed motion to go with Honeycutt's recommended cuts, Newman said he didn't think there would be an agreement that night.

He moved to postpone the vote until the planned meeting on Oct. 20. His motion failed as well. More discussion of possible changes to the budget ensued with some advocating leaving raises for some employees in the budget.

Honeycutt said while he wanted to give teachers more money "it goes against the spirit of what the county commission asked for" which was no raises for any county employees including teachers. He said giving the teachers a raise this year anyway could "cause an issue next year."

With the board's discussion going nowhere, board member Larry Proaps asked if the board could approve the recommendations for budget cuts then amend the budget later.

Phipps said as long as the bottom line remains the same that was allowable. Simon moved the recommended cuts be made and the budget be approved. The board voted to approve the recommended budget by a vote of six to three with Shaver, Lisa Russell and Bobby Johnson, Jr. voting against the measure.

"The board needs to do a better job of selling our school system," said Newman adding board members need to present "a united front even if the vote didn't go your way." He said that might improve the board's chances of getting more funds.