The Coffee County Board of Education has approved the 2020 fiscal year budget, which includes 1% pay raises for all employees of the school system in addition to the step raises.
“What we are estimating for the next year is to have a little over $38 million in revenue,” said Lisa Myers, director of finance for the school board.
Myers expects the expenditures to exceed $39 million.
“So it will be a year when we will be using fund balance in order to balance our budget,” Myers said.
“The biggest reason for this is paying for our school buses. We are needing five buses this year. In the past few years, the county commission has paid for those buses out of the rural debt fund, but this year they are unable to do so. But we do have funds set aside that will go toward those school bus purchases.”
The five school buses cost about $525,000.
“We are very proud that we have been able to be fiscally responsible in order to be able to pay for the school buses this year. For the last few years, we have been reserving transportation budget that was unused in order to buy transportation equipment, if ever the county was not in the position to purchase those buses for us. (We will) completely use those funds this year, but at least we have them to be able to make up the difference this year. Going forward, there would be some decisions that will have to be made.”
In the past the county has provided funds for the buses out of its rural debt fund. The county did not do that this year, Myers said, due to a middle school debt refinancing.
“This year, county officials had an opportunity to refinance the debt on Coffee County Middle School,” she said. “They were able to save $9 million.”
But that refinancing has increased the annual payments which, according to Myers, will be paid using the rural debt fund.
“With our new budget, there is not much in the way of new funding for us, but we are thankful and pleased we were able to (offer) a 1% raise for the employees of our school system,” Myers said. “It’s not as much as we would like. We would love to be able to give a healthier raise each year, but it’s better than nothing.”
The county school system continues to lag behind its counterparts in surrounding counties, when it comes to paying teachers.
“We are not able at this rate of increase to stay competitive with surrounding school systems,” Myers said. “I believe Manchester City is also giving a 1% raise, and our salary schedule is already behind Manchester City by an average of 4%. We are not able to gain any ground by giving the same amount of raises each year. Tullahoma City gave a 2% raise I believe.”
She hopes in the future the county school board will be able to provide a higher increase in salaries.
Several remodeling and expansion projects are underway.
“We are fortunate that the county commission did issue bonds last year in order to start renovations at North Coffee and New Union Elementary Schools,” she said. “That is a huge project we have started.”
The bonds total is about $10 million, said Myers. The project should be completed by July of 2021.
“We are also very excited to have started a project recently to redo the lighting at the high school theater,” she said. “That has not been updated since the 1970s.”
Additionally, the furniture at the high school will be renovated. That process has already begun.
“That is something exciting,” Myers said.
“Also, we have planned to be able to continue to update our vocational equipment at the high school,” she said.