Budget Committee approves two-percent pay raise for employees, school staff
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
The County Commission Budget Committee voted to approve a two-percent pay raise for all county employees as well as school district employees at its meeting May 7.
The two percent pay increase for county employees will cost the county approximately $939,000. The county and school district will work together to fund the two percent raise for teachers, while the county will solely fund the full two percent for all other county employees.
After the County Commission Education Committee voted to cut the WCS Operating Budget from $260.6 million to $258 million in April, County Mayor Rogers Anderson made a motion to add $2 million back to the WCS Operating Budget, for a total of $260 million, in order to help fund the two percent pay increase for district employees. The $2 million would solely contribute to the pay raises – leaving WCS still without the $2 million nixed by the CCEC to fund other items.
“We will not have to raise taxes this year,” said Anderson. “Dr. Looney has worked very hard with us. We don’t always agree … but it’s [WCS Superintendent Dr. Mike] Looney’s job to provide the best education possible, and our job to provide the best money possible.”
The pay increase is merited, Anderson said, rather than perfunctory.
“We want to treat our employees fairly, and they are deserving,” he said. “The workload is picking up in Williamson County, and a lot of people depend on us to pay them adequately. We want to stay in keeping with what’s going on in the economy.”
The CCBC also voted to approve the CCEC’s amendment that cut the WCS capital projects fund from $7 million to $4 million. During discussions, CCBC Chairman Ernie Williams asked Looney if that amount would cause “problems.”
“Yes, sir,” Looney said. “We are running a Chevrolet and not spending the money to put the oil in it.”
Looney cited the school’s building-maintenance funding to support the metaphor.
“We have 6 million square feet to maintain and are spending half of what the industry standard calls for to maintain the buildings.”
Looney also expressed his “worry” about WCS’s continually growing population, which affects the significant need to maintain buildings.
“I am worried that our estimate [of 2.76 percent in student population growth] might be too conservative,” Looney said. “We are having a huge influx of students. It was our best guess, but I think it’s on the low end.”
“We are up hundreds of students since winter break,” he said. The majority of those new students have come from Brentwood because of high housing turn over, or “churn” he said.
Anderson said that if any maintenance projects arose during the school year, such as the damaged roof at Ravenwood High School last year, the district could come to the commission to request money for repairs.
Also, last week the county directed Looney to determine if the WCS district could be permitted to opt out of Common Core State Standards. Upon receiving a letter by email from Kevin Huffman, commissioner of Tennessee Department of Education, it was determined that the district does not retain that option.
“A district is not allowed to opt out of state standards for any area of study, whether the Common Core state standards for reading and math, or other standards for other subject areas,” Huffman wrote in an email to Looney. “The director of schools is required to use the state course of study for all the public schools in accordance with the regulations of the commissioner, as approved by the state board.”
County Commission Budget Committee Meeting, May 6
The budget committee met to vote on resolutions pertaining to the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year Monday, May 6.
Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long requested the transfer of $200,000 between categories to fund the medical expenses of inmates’ serious medical conditions such as cancer and neurological disorders. The amount reflects the amount left over for the funding of elementary School Resource Officers in WCS and FSSD. The transfer will not affect SRO funding for 2013-14.
“This has been one of the worst years in medical expenses since I have been sheriff,” said Long.
Long also said that the state pays the sheriff’s office $36 a day per state prisoner, while it costs $70 a day to hold each state prisoner. However, the sheriff was recently able to transfer about 40 prisoners from the county jail to the state prison.
“I would like to see the state pay the full cost,” said Ernie Williams, chairman of the Budget Committee. “It’s inequitable for the county to be paying that amount, which is costing Williamson County taxpayers money.”
Long also stated that the prison population has increased since 2008, which contributes to increased costs. According to Long, the average daily prison population is 400, whereas the number previously reflected about 340 to 350 prisoners.
The budget committee also approved funding to hire two teachers at Lipscomb and Kenrose elementary schools, additional special education funds for high-needs students that require outside contract services for issues related to suicidal thoughts as well as surveillance systems for buses.
Posted on: 5/8/2013