Board proposes 2% salary hike
by JOYANNA WEBER Banner Staff Writer
May 03, 2013 | 1349 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The proposed Bradley County Schools budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year includes a 2 percent increase in salary for employees and an increase in compensation for contracted bus drivers.

The Bradley County Board of Education took a detailed look at the proposed budget during a work session Thursday. The board will vote on the budget document during a formal session Tuesday. The work session served as a time for board members to ask finance director Rick Smith questions about how funds are proposed to be spent.

Smith said the budget, not including the cafeteria or federal programs, is $69,940,000. This is a combination of state, local and federal funding. The majority, 66 percent, is state funding.

“The budget includes a total of seven new employees — five professional staff and two para-professional staff,” Smith said.

These positions include four special education teachers, a high school math teacher and two high school education assistants. Additional elementary nursing positions are also included. Eighty-one percent of the school’s budget goes to salaries and benefits.

One-time technology money from the state accounts for $619,000 of the budget. This will be used to increase bandwidth across the school system in preparation for switching to online end-of-year testing. The proposed budget also allocates $350,000 for upgrading technology.

“Technology used to be whoever could raise the money to get it, they had it. That’s really not OK for a school district. It’s not OK for me,” Bradley County Schools director Johnny McDaniel said. “Whether you’re at North Lee or at Valley View (elementary schools), you ought to have access to technology.”

McDaniel said the money allocated for technology is part of ensuring each student has the same opportunity. He said money can also be saved by supporting technology upgrades at a district rather than school level.

Funding for maintenance capital projects accounts for $1.5 million in the proposed budget. Proposed capital projects needs will focus largely on paving and safety enhancements projects this year.

“We determined that Prospect (Elementary School) was our greatest need for paving,” Smith said.

Michigan Avenue Elementary School, as well as Walker Valley and Bradley Central high schools, will also receive funding for parking lot improvement.

Portions of Prospect will also be receiving a new roof.

Replacing the roof on the cafeteria at Lake Forest Middle School is also being proposed.

“Larry (Holcomb) does not believe we can wait another year,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel said the condition of the roof has been a concern for the maintenance supervisor for the past few years. McDaniel said the school system had held off on the project in hopes that the Bradley County Commission would fund the request to renovate the entire campus at Lake Forest.

“A ballpark estimate ... we estimate somewhere in the $150,000 range,” Smith said.

The cafeteria is one of the buildings the school system plans to keep even if a new academic building is completed.

The year’s list of projects was compiled by Smith, McDaniel, board chairman Charlie Rose and maintenance supervisor Larry Holcomb.

An additional $200,000 to cover the local portion of the addition at Walker Valley High School is included in this. The board had set aside $300,000 for the project during the 2012-13 fiscal year. Bids for this project will be considered at the next school board voting session.

The 2013-14 fiscal year also marks the beginning of payments to the city of Cleveland by the county school system stemming from sales tax litigation. The school system will pay $1.422 million to the city over the next 30 months.

Increases in costs to the school system for retirement benefits and medical insurance were also discussed Thursday. Board member Chris Turner suggested that changing the type of plan offered may save funds on the school system premiums.

An increase in workman’s compensation claims was also a concern for Turner. He suggested additional safety training could be used to prevent more of these incidents. Board member Troy Weathers said many of the recent incidents have been unusual accidents and not the result of people purposely being unsafe.

The central cafeteria budget was also reviewed by the board. School lunch prices are proposed to remain the same, Smith said. This budget is funded through state and federal funding, not local taxes. Smith said the only local money in this budget was what students pay for their lunches.

Board member Nicholas Lillios asked how the switch to more nutritious offerings had affected the program. Nutrition supervisor Emily Brown said buying more fruit and vegetables has been more expensive. However, a program through the Department of Defense has allowed the department to move money that would have been spent on canned food and use it to buy produce from a local, approved vendor.

The proposed budget will be voted on by the Board of Education on Tuesday at noon. The budget will then be considered by the Commission on May 20 at noon.