published Friday, March 30th, 2012

Proposed Hamilton County Schools budget wouldn’t cover adding teachers

  • photo
    Christie Jordan, Hamilton County Schools director of accounting and budgeting
    Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

UNFUNDED REQUESTS


Here are some of the budget addition requests that will go unfilled under the current Hamilton County Schools proposed budget:

• $1.375 million for additional teachers to meet student growth

• $1.5 million to restore this year’s cut to capital maintenance funds

• $220,000 to fund four additional English as a second language teachers

• $158,386 for staff development of International Baccalaureate teachers

• $150,000 to move contract nurses to full time positions with benefits

• $100,000 to continue the College Access Program in its current form

• $27,300 in additional travel and mileage for the school board

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If next year’s proposed $383 million Hamilton County Schools budget is approved in its current form, more than $4 million in staff budget requests will go unfilled.

A $1.5 million request to restore capital maintenance funding cut this year and a $1.375 million budget request to add new teachers would be the costliest items to go unfilled.

The Hamilton County Board of Education discussed the two issues at a Thursday work session on the proposed budget. Board members were especially worried about the long-term effects of cutting building maintenance funds.

“It’s going to continue to get worse. Having come from there, I know what they go through just to keep buildings open,” said board Chairman Mike Evatt, who is retired from the department of education’s maintenance division.

The funding for teachers would have covered about 25 more teachers needed for anticipated student growth of about 300 or 400 students next year. But the finance department is working on making sure existing staffing levels are correct across all buildings, said Christie Jordan, director of accounting and budgeting.

“They’re really working to make sure the teachers follow the students,” she said.

Jordan said school staffers were asked to keep requests for budget additions to a minimum, and this year’s list is one of the lowest to date with many legitimate requests.

“Many of these are needed,” she said. “They’re very reasonable requests.”

The proposed $383 million budget, a compilation of four school budget funds, comes in about $10 million higher than this year’s spending. To cover an anticipated $12 million in “unavoidable” cost increases, the board will have to come up with about $3.7 million in cuts. More cuts would have to be made if the board chose to fund any of the $4.3 million in unfunded requests.

Currently, administrators are recommending the board find $1.5 million in savings by restructuring next year’s textbook adoption. Another $1 million in savings is proposed by reducing salary increases next year.

The governor has proposed a 2.5 percent raise, though that will cover only the raise on the state-funded portion of an employee’s salary. Hamilton County, like many systems, supplements staff salaries and the number of total staff positions so that not all are covered by the state’s Basic Education Program.

As a last resort, about $1.2 million could be saved by reducing staff levels, though Superintendent Rick Smith said no more than 20 positions would be lost.

Jordan and Smith said Thursday they’re hoping revenue projections increase in the coming days, meaning cuts might not have to go so deep.

Board member Rhonda Thurman joked that revenues like sales tax aren’t anything to bet on.

“We can’t sit around waiting like we’re playing the lottery,” she said.

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about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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