Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd said it isn’t necessary to raise property taxes to enable the county school system to fund 350 new employees.
This, even though better overall grades and test scores are among district officials’ main selling points for a plan that would create new counselors and school administrators, among other things.
As The Tennessee Star reported, most school board members voted for a budget that includes all these new employees. But county commissioners must approve the plan, and doing so might require raising property taxes to generate enough revenue to pay for it all.
Boyd told The Star Tuesday he can’t predict how other commissioners will vote, but he’s certain he’ll vote no.
“The reason I am voting no is because this school system has adequate funding compared to neighboring districts in Georgia and Tennessee, and our funding per student in Hamilton County is above the state average for Tennessee and above the average for the states of Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Kentucky,” Boyd said.
Boyd said Superintendent Bryan Johnson is moving the school district in a positive direction with the resources it already has.
“Let them continue without all these new jobs,” Boyd said.
“They have a 90 percent retention rate on more than 3,000 teachers a year. I don’t even have a 90 percent retention rate in my little manufacturing plant that has 400 people. I think they are doing a pretty good job if they have a 90 percent retention rate.”
School Board member Joe Wingate praised Johnson and said test scores overall have improved.
Wingate supports adding 350 new positions.
But why increase the number of new jobs — and possibly increase property taxes — if things are proceeding so well?
“It is all about sustainability. I don’t know about the raising of taxes. The county commission can fund this any way they choose to. What bothers me is the assumption that nine people make a vote based on a determination on whether to raise taxes,” Wingate told The Star Tuesday.
“My job is not to worry about how this gets funded. My job is to worry about making sure we are running an excellent school system that will meet the needs of all the families and students in the county. Who knows how it gets funded? County commissioners could choose to fund some of this if they want to — or all of it.”
School board member Kathy Lennon, meanwhile, said Hamilton County currently does not meet state requirements for its number of counselors and special education teachers.
As reported, proposed new positions include counselors. graduation coaches, a data warehouse programmer, a testing coordinator, a director of social and emotional learning, new assistant principals, and a college and career advisor, among other things.
The money would also pay for 15 new truancy officers.
Property taxes may go up as high as 17 percent if commissioners give the plan their OK.
School board member Rhonda Thurman said last week many of the proposed new positions are not needed. Hamilton County resident Nancy Patty said her property taxes will go up an extra $500 a year if board members enact the plan.
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