Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger on Tuesday presented a budget that includes a 34-cent property tax increase for the school system, The Chattanoogan reported.
The proposed budget does not include any increase for the county general budget, the publication said. Coppinger had previously talked about including 15 cents for that portion of the budget, for a 49-cent increase.
The proposed tax increase of 34 cents would cost the owner of a $100,000 house $85 per year, The Chattanoogan said.
The proposed 17 percent property tax increase is meant to hire 350 positions for the school district, The Tennessee Star reported.
Proposed new positions include counselors, graduation coaches, a data warehouse programmer, 15 truancy officers and more.
School Board member Rhonda Thurman, a critic of the proposed bump in spending for the school system, recently told The Star that even if the 350 personnel do not help to raise test scores, they likely still will keep their jobs.
“We never get rid of a program. All we do is keep adding on to them,” said Thurman, who said these positions are unneeded.
Coppinger’s proposed budget is $819 million, a $65 million increase from the current year, with almost $60 million more going to schools for personnel including teachers, the Chattanooga Times Free Press said.
The school system has a $443 million general purpose budget that asks for $34 million more from the county; the rest of the increase comes from state and federal sources, the newspaper said.
The school district’s overall budget is up 13.6% from 2019 including $57 million in state and federal funding on top of Johnson’s request $443 million from the county.
Hamilton County’s school tax debate has even captured the attention of billionaire activist Bill Gates, who said he supported the planned increase, The Star said. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given more than $2.7 million to education initiatives in the Chattanooga area.
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