School board starts budget work

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
Posted 4/19/19

Teacher raises and the need for additions at two schools were among the items discussed during the Bradley County Board of Education’s budget work session Friday. Susan Willcutt, finance …

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School board starts budget work

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Teacher raises and the need for additions at two schools were among the items discussed during the Bradley County Board of Education’s budget work session Friday. 

Susan Willcutt, finance director for Bradley County Schools, gave the board its first look at the approximately $70 million budget being proposed for the 2019-20 year. 

“The district has so many needs, and we have tried to address as many of your concerns as possible within the funding available,” Willcutt told the board.

The proposed budget includes step raises along with 2% “across the board” raises for all salaried employees. Contracted bus drivers will also receive 2% increases in their pay. 

Willcutt also noted Bradley County Schools will not be facing any health insurance cost increases this year, and the district will only pay slightly more — 0.17% — for certified employees on the Legacy retirement plan. 

“I would really like to see us do more,” board member Ted Bryson said of the raises. “I think our teachers are the most important thing [in the budget].” 

Board vice-chairman Jerry Frazier pointed out the Cleveland Board of Education recently included 1% teacher raises in its 2019-20 budget, so Bradley County Schools would be ahead in that regard. 

The Cleveland City Schools officials had said they were giving only a 1% raise in part because they were having to fund staff for the new Candy’s Creek Cherokee Elementary School, which opens for the first time this fall. 

The majority of Bradley County Schools’ proposed budget — 82% — is for salaries and benefits. Contract services, which includes pay for bus drivers, come in second with 7%. 

Also included in the budget is $2 million for capital outlay, which will be taken from the fund balance. This includes $250,000 for the district’s technology refresh programs, along with building-related needs. 

The budget will also include funding for one career counselor position, 25% of a career counselor position and one and a half grant coordinator positions, all of which had originally been funded by grants. 

Bradley County Schools’ largest funding source is state BEP funding, and it is driven by average daily membership, or ADM. Thanks to student growth, the county received approximately $438,000 more this year.

Referencing raises, Willcutt said this includes a 2.5% funding increase in the salary component of the funding formula — but this doesn’t mean teachers automatically get a 2.5% raise. 

“That just doesn’t equate to a 2.5% increase for all district employees, but it does create additional funding to be used for salary increases and/or benefits,” Willcutt said. 

Board Chairman Troy Weathers pointed out Bradley County Schools employs more school faculty and staff than is accounted for in the BEP formula. 

He used school nurses as an example. The BEP formula allows enough funding for a school district this size to have three school nurses, based on the number of students. However, Bradley County Schools believes it is important for every school to have a school nurse. 

Other state revenue comes from Career Ladder funding, grants, pre-K funding, State Revenue Sharing (TVA). 

The district also draws a small amount of federal funding for the Army JROTC program at Bradley Central High School. 

Average daily attendance is up by 89 students over last year. This resulted in about $150,000 in additional local revenue for the 2019 fiscal year. 

Local sources account for 33.25% of the proposed revenues — from property taxes, sales tax and payment in lieu of tax (PILOT) programs. Willcutt said estimates are based on historical data, current year figures and estimated growth. She added more concrete figures are forthcoming. 

The board also touched on the need for additions at the Black Fox and North Lee elementary schools. Both schools have reportedly run out of space in their buildings, and the district is looking for a more permanent way to replace portable buildings which have been used at the schools.

“It certainly is way overdue,” said Weathers. 

Director of Schools Dr. Linda Cash said there are no cost estimates yet for the building additions, but she would like to go ahead and speak to the Bradley County Commission about the need for funding. 

Cash also explained the need for funding to continue to renovate the former American Uniform facility on Parker Street into what will be the Partnerships in Industry and Education Center, or PIE Center. This facility will provide career training opportunities for students by renting spaces out to companies willing to employ students. 

The director added district is currently raising funds to turn part of the building into a "warm, dark shell" to allow tenants to move in and renovate the spaces to their specific needs. 

The board did not pass its budget on Thursday. It will pick up its budget discussions in May. Meanwhile, the board gave Cash the informal go-ahead to talk to the Commission about funding needs. 


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