As Sumner County considers a major property tax increase for the second time in five years, a central figure is pushing for the pay raises that it will pay for.
That central figure is Scott Langford, who holds the position of Sumner County Schools assistant director of instruction as well as chairman of the Sumner County Board of County Commissioners.
Langford was elected as a Sumner County Commissioner in 2014, at which time he held the position of assistant principal of Sumner County’s White House High School. He was promoted during the same year to the position of principal of the same school
The first month after being elected in August, the Sumner County Commission passed the fiscal year 2014-2015 budget for Sumner County Schools. Langford, along with five other county commissioners, all of whom still sit on the County Commission, declared an indirect conflict of interest but would vote their conscience on the budget that increased $4 million over the prior year.
Later in 2014, the Sumner County Board of Commissioners, many of whom were supported by the left-leaning Strong Schools PAC, implemented a 20 percent property tax increase.
At the time, the property tax rate was $2.02, but due to over-inflated property values following the recession, the certified tax rate following the five-year reappraisal increased to $2.08. The Sumner County Commission then increased the property tax rate from $2.08 to $2.50 per $100 of assessed value.
There was additional controversy about the property tax increase at the time because it was done at back-to-back special-called meetings of the Budget Committee and County Commission the night before the 2014 national election, catching most Sumner County taxpayers off guard.
In February 2015, the Sumner County Commission approved $61 million in bonds for renovations and additions to various Sumner County schools, $7.5 million of which went to White House High School, where Langford was principal.
In August 2015, Langford was elected the chairman of the Sumner County Board of Commissioners, a role he retained throughout the remainder of the four-year term.
In the May 2, 2018, county primary election, Langford came in second in a three-way Republican primary. First-time candidate Jeremy Mansfield took a surprising 41.46 percent of the vote. Langford trailed a healthy margin behind with about 30 percent of the vote, besting fellow incumbent Bill Taylor, who took about 27 percent of the 1,785 votes cast in Sumner County’s Commission District 11.
On May 31, 2018, Sumner Home Page reported that Dr. Del Phillips, Sumner County director of schools, announced that he named Langford as the assistant director for instruction for Sumner County Schools.
In Langford’s move to Sumner County School’s Central Office, he reported to then-Deputy Director of Instruction Dr. Jennifer Brown to oversee teaching and curriculum in the district. In January 2019, Sumner County Schools suffered a tremendous loss when the beloved Dr. Brown passed away at the age of 51 after a battle with cancer.
The position of Deputy Director of Instruction was not filled, putting Langford in a direct-report position with the Director of Schools.
In 2018, Langford, re-elected as one of the two commissioners along with Mansfield for Sumner County District 11 in August, was once again chosen with 22 votes and two abstentions as chairman of the 24-member body in September.
The Sumner County Board of Commissioners was in the process of considering the budgets for the 2019-2020 fiscal and a property tax rate increase of as much as 20 percent following a five-year reappraisal, as The Tennessee Star reported.
During the process, Langford’s boss, Dr. Del Phillips announced he would be seeking a $4,000 pay increase for all “certified” employees in the Sumner County School district.
The across-the-board pay increase would take effect in the next school year 2020-2021 and benefit all Sumner County School district staff who have a certificate or license – like teachers – proving they have the necessary credentials and knowledge for the position.
Despite the one-year delay in implementing the raises, the Sumner County Board of Commissioners is seeking to include the corresponding property tax increase of $0.12 this year in order to raise the $8.8 million that will be needed for the 2,200 qualifying employees.
Historically, employees in the Central Office who hold a certificate, like Langford, would get the raise as proposed.
While Langford had no public Facebook posts since June 29, three days after Dr. Phillips announced the pay raise, Langford has at least 10 posts or reposts promoting the pay raise. One says he supports the $4,000 pay raise for teachers and certified staff, among a list of five things he supports.
Langford’s post also tells readers, “The most important thing you can do is email your commissioners and encourage them to support the $2.265 tax rate.”
The $2.265 tax rate, which includes $0.12 for the Sumner School’s certified employees, represents a 17 percent increase over the $1.9284 revenue-neutral certified tax rate resulting from the five-year reappraisal.
The agenda for the Monday, August 19, Sumner County Commission meeting calls for the property tax rate for fiscal year 2019-2020, which began July 1, 2019, to be addressed.
Teachers and other Sumner School employees have reported, anonymously, that requests have been come from the Central Office, including in-person visits by Langford, telling principals to encourage teachers to attend the meeting and wear red, signaling support of the property tax increase that will get them a raise.
Reportedly, those with first-hand knowledge of the actions of Langford fear repercussions if they were to come forward publicly.
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