City school board OKs $36M budget that includes 4.5 percent raise for all staff

Published 6:23 pm Friday, May 17, 2024

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By Buzz Trexler

Star Correspondent

The Elizabethton City School Board on Thursday passed a $36,259,561 budget for the 2024-2025 fiscal year, the first full year under the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement, which was signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee in May 2022.

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 “This was a very challenging budget for many aspects,” Director of Schools Richard VanHuss said. “One being this is the first full year we’ve had under the new state funding formula, which is called TISA.”

 The budget is a $4,872,455 decrease from last year’s budget due to federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding that is ending in June, VanHuss said, indicating that cut in funding caused the system to consider the impact on tutoring, class-size reduction teachers, and counselors. “We tried every way in the world to save as many of those positions as we possibly could, because we’ve seen the impact that’s been demonstrated by student achievement and performance and growth. So we tried to find a way to build as many of those into the budget, as well as work on this teacher raise.

 VanHuss thanked Beth Wilson, Business and Fiscal Management director, for her “frugality” and “stewardship” in “putting all of the pieces together” to enable the system to budget a 4.5 percent increase for all city school employees.

 “We had legislation that mandates raises for teachers, so we had to work that in and, as you know, historically this board has made a commitment that if we give teachers a raise, we give everyone in the system a raise,” he said.

 All certified and staff employees will receive a step increase, if eligible, while hourly rates for classified personnel are adjusted to reflect a 4.5 percent increase. The base annual salary for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree will increase from $43,500 to $46,638; for a master’s, from $47,850 to $51,188; education specialist, $52,200 to $55,738; and doctorate, $56,550 to $60,288.

 Among the budget highlights:

 — The contribution rate for legacy certified staff is 6.36 percent, 9 percent for certified staff hired after July 1, 2014, and 12.35 percent for classified staff.

 — Retirement incentives are budgeted at $30,000.

 — The system will pay 100 percent of the individual medical insurance premiums for full-time employees electing the Standard, Limited, and CDHP options. All other options and levels of coverage are funded similar to the 2023 calendar year.

 — Medical insurance premiums are budgeted with an increase of 6 percent that hit in January 2024.

 — The system will continue to pay 100 percent of dental and life insurance premiums for full-time employees. Dental insurance premiums are budgeted with an increase of 5 percent that hit in January 2024.

 — $92,000 has been budgeted for Capital Outlay from local funds, but none has been budgeted from the excess sales tax or reserved funds.


Personnel Actions

 The board approved the following new hires: Cindy Davis, substitute cook, effective April 27; Michelle Fowler, interim teacher at Elizabethton High School (EHS), effective April 22; Peyton Lacy, Extended School Program (ESP) student leader, effective April 24; and Abbey Townsend, ESP leader, effective May 2.

 The board approved an additional extended school program leader position, hiring Jordan LaRoche, effective April 10.

 The board approved the following transfers: Mallory Moreland, from Tennessee All Corp assistant, to interim second grade teacher at Harold McCormick Elementary (home), effective May 1-22; and Gail Ridlehuber, from Project On Track Math Teacher to interim math teacher at T.A. Digger (TAD), effective April 22-May 22.

 The board approved the following resignations: Abby Owen, TAD math teacher, effective May 23; Chloe Hambrick, ESP student leader, effective April 23; Elijah Smith, Community Involvement Program swim instructor, effective May 1; and Leanne Combs, clerical assistant, West Side Elementary, effective June 1.

 The following leaves of absence were approved: Michelle Johnson, TAD cafeteria manager, effective April 29-May 14; Gary Harrison, EHS teacher, April 5-May 3; and Kendra Killion, HME teacher, April 29-May 22.

 The board approved the following retirements: Danny Osborne, TAD custodian, effective May 24; Mark Hyatt, EHS teacher, effective May 23; Roberta Naholowaa, TAD teacher, effective June 29; Cathy Sanders, EHS educational assistant, effective May 22; Jennifer Taylor, EHS secretary, effective June 4; Linda Black, HME cafeteria, effective May 21; and Becky Wagner, special education instructional coach, central office, effective June 1.