Cleveland Board of Education approved a 2 percent salary increase for all employees Wednesday afternoon in a special called meeting to discuss the 2014-15 school budget.
Business manager Brenda Carson explained the increase is possible as a result of two factors: the state salary increase of 2 percent; and the city schools’ overall revenue growth.
The approval of the salary increase was a part of a larger vote to accept the 2014-15 school budget at $41,186,413.
The approved budget is 1.4 percent more than the “amended” 2013-14 school budget.
Carson described the budget as “really conservative.”
“By the time we got the 2 percent raise in and the changes in the benefit rate, that is about all we could afford,” added the business manager.
The benefit rate mentioned is the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System increase from 8.8 percent to 9.04 percent for certified employees.
Director of Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff said there are no new costly initiatives in the budget.
“That was by design. We knew it was going to be a tight year for the City Council, the County Commission and for the state,” Ringstaff said. “As the state has told us, it (revenue) is not coming in up there like they thought, which is only going to trickle down to us.”
A step-only salary increase was built into the budget to award teachers with a $1,000 supplement for National Board Certification. The result is a $300,884 expenditure in the 2014-15 budget.
Both salaries and benefits for system employees make up 82.05 percent of the budget. The remaining 17.95 percent of the overall budget is split between five sections: 10.45 percent for discretionary expenses like textbooks, supplies, maintenance and transportation; 4.9 percent for utilities and janitorial; 1.51 percent for debt service; .9 percent for liability insurance and the trustee commission; and .19 percent for teacher support as dictated through state funding.
Board member Richard Shaw said he wants the city to know the school system is making the most of the money provided through taxes.
“I’ve never seen a city that has the kind of services this town has and the taxes this town pays,” Shaw said. “It is phenomenal. It is just first rate. I can’t find any where that is not first rate.”
Continued Shaw, “I think people should know they are getting value for their tax money.”
According to the general fund budget overview provided by Carson, funding comes from three primary sources: the state of Tennessee, the Bradley County Commission and the Cleveland City Council.
The State Department of Education contributes 59.94 percent to the system’s annual revenue. Approximately $22,806,000 of state funding is provided through the Basic Education Program funds. This amount is determined by a system’s student population.
Bradley County contributes 25.92 percent of the school system’s revenue, and Cleveland contributes 12.68 percent. Other local revenues and the federal government provide 1.37 percent of the total funding.
Carson reported the city of Cleveland increased its funding by $102,404. This is a 2 percent increase over its 2009-10 allocation. It is the first increase in funding from the City of Cleveland since 2009.
Shaw asked Ringstaff whether people understood the purpose of the Sales Tax Capital Projects Fund, which operates as a separate fund outside of the general budget. The fund is financed through the half-cent sales tax voters agreed to increase in 2009.
According to the report, “This additional revenue is in a separate fund with the city of Cleveland and is designated by resolution for capital projects expenditures for Cleveland City Schools, such as buses, roofs, renovations and other capital expenses.”
Board Member Dawn Robinson said the school board promised voters the money would not be used for large projects. This means half-cent sales tax revenue is unlikely to be used for the building of a new school.
“It was a referendum the voters passed, and although you can call a building a ‘capital project’ for sure, the voters when we went out and spoke said, ‘Well, it will all get eaten up by a bond,’” Robinson said. “And we said, ‘No, the city will not use it for big projects for us.’”
Board member Steve Morgan thanked Carson for her work on the school budget.
The budget must now be approved by the City Council.
The current 2013-14 budget can be found at www.clevelandschools.org under the ‘agenda’ tab. The 2014-15 budget will be updated to the website once the current budget ends.