Tullahoma City Schools is requesting more than $800,000 in appropriations from the city for its 2018-2019 fiscal year.
Director of Schools Dan Lawson detailed the various projects the school system would be prioritizing for the coming fiscal year in the district’s pitch to the city, which has the district asking for $818,500 in “recurring funds” this year.
According to Lawson, who spoke during Monday’s city board meeting, the biggest priority for the district is ensuring its employees enjoy comparable and competitive pay, which has been a challenge in the last few years.
Particularly where the district’s noncertified employees are concerned, Lawson said the rate of pay for the less “glamorous” positions has not been competitive when compared to private industry. As a way to combat that the district enacted a pay raise for those noncertified employees in February, which helped recruit and retain noncertified employees.
In addition to that, Lawson said, the district anticipates the Tennessee General Assembly will adopt a budget with a “salary improvement” component that includes a local match through Basic Education Program (BEP) monies.
In order to accomplish the state match and fund its regular salary step increase – valued at $287,000 – the district plans to increase the base salary by 2 percent, or $404,000.
Those two figures bring the total amount of appropriations needed for salaries to around $691,000.
Health insurance costs
The district also requested an increase to the cap of its in-house health insurance. While the district does have cost-containment measure in place, it will need to increase its cap by about $177,500 – an approximate 5-percent increase – to account for anticipated increases to the state insurance premiums, according to Lawson.
Another component of the request is the installation of an interventionist at Tullahoma High School.
This person would be the one responsible for working with ninth-grade students at risk of falling behind and failing out or dropping out of high school, Lawson said.
The interventionist would replace the idea of a “transition academy,” which was previously debated among the school board and high school officials.
While the original transition academy would have cost nearly $400,000, the interventionist – plus their supplies and materials – would only cost $95,000.
Fine arts educators
Another priority for the district would be addition of two music and two art teachers to fully staff all four elementary schools.
“We have a tremendous fine arts program in our community,” Lawson said.
Because the district feels it is “underserving” its elementary-aged students in fine arts education, it wants to fully staff that area of education.
These four new educators would cost around $70,000 each in salary and benefits, for an approximate total of $280,000.
No anticipated increases
While the district is anticipating increased costs, it is not at the moment assuming any increases in either Coffee or Franklin County tax revenues, Lawson said.
Mayor Lane Curlee said the first three months of the year had seen about a 3-percent increase in total, with March seeing a 7-percent increase alone.
Both Curlee and Lawson said they hoped that trend would continue and the city would see greater tax revenues throughout the rest of the year.
Erin McCullough may be emailed at email@example.com.