FSSD board raises taxes, secures custodians, appoints new board member
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
The FSSD Board of Education voted to raise taxes and transfer debt service, which balanced the budget and secured jobs for custodians.
Board members include Robin Newman (left), Tim Stillings, Sherry Badger, Robert Blair and Alicia Spencer Barker.
The Franklin Special School District Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the 2013-14 budget of approximately $44.5 million, raise taxes by 2.65 cents, and transfer debt service funds – to keep custodian jobs on the FSSD ledger at their meeting on July 15.
Raising taxes and transferring debt service were the final measures taken by the board to make up for a $1 million budget shortfall this coming school year in funding the overall budget. Throughout the budget process this spring, the board explored multiple options including outsourcing the janitorial staff – a savings of $667,000 – to make up partly for the shortage.
If outsourced, FSSD documents showed that janitors could lose up to $4 an hour and some benefits. The suggestion of this led to community outcry and support for the workers who some have called “family” and “not just a janitor.”
During the public comments portion of the meeting, parent Brandy Blanton, a City of Franklin at-large alderman, spoke against outsourcing janitors.
“I urge you to recognize that the custodial staff is worth more than pushing a mop,” Blanton said. “They are part of the FSSD family and part of the Franklin community. They know the ins and outs of the school better than anybody. They know the teachers, keep the classroom safe and well-maintained and establish meaningful relationships with students.”
“They even pay for clothing, supplies and lunch money out of their own pocket to help students in need.” Blanton attended and graduated from FSSD schools, and all of her five children have been educated in the district.
She also said that some janitors who are close to retirement might struggle to begin a new career at retirement age.
Ultimately, the board voted unanimously to raise taxes from 95.10 cents to 97.77 cents. The body approved the transfer of about 3 cents from the debt service tax rate to the general purpose tax rate, generating about $567,000 in general purpose revenue and securing about $1.9 million for the debt service fund balance at the end of 2013-14.
“We have a limited number of possibilities to address the shortfall,” Chairman of the Board Sherry Badger said. “They are all difficult choices, and no one enjoys a tax increase or voting for one.”
However, Badger said that she values the jobs of FSSD personnel, which takes precedence over other options such as outsourcing janitors.
“The potential savings [of outsourcing custodians] are not as significant to me as the value of employees in our district,” Badger said.
“We owe it to them,” board member Robert Blair said.
Board member Tim Stillings said that he sees both sides “very clearly.”
The decision might not be the remedy to the budget shortfall in the long term, which could creep up again in the near future.
“In three years, we might be back to where we are now,” Stillings said. “We have to make sure that we are comfortable kicking the can down the road.”
Board member Alicia Spencer Barker suggested that the district ask teachers and staff to pay monthly premiums in insurance packages to save in district costs. While Badger said that she was not interested in the option for the current fiscal year, Stillings and board member Robin Newman said that the idea merits further discussion in the future.
New board member appointed
Allena Bell, newly appointed FSSD board member.
The board voted unanimously to appoint Allena Bell as the new board member for the vacant seat left by Melanie Hembree, who moved out of state earlier in the spring. Bell will also be up to run in school board elections in 2014.
Bell was chosen out of three other candidates, all of whom board members praised for their experience and passion for education.
“I am very excited,” Bell said. “I think it’s important for me to be an active listener because there is such a wealth of experience on the board and to be a strong team player moving forward.”
Bell has served on the FSSD Family and Community Advisory Council as secretary of the Executive PTO, Freedom Intermediate and Johnson Elementary advisory boards, and as development director of New Hope Academy. She has a background in pharmaceutical sales and holds a B.A. in government from Liberty University.
“She understands the challenges in the district and thinks big and dreams big,” Stillings said. “If she’s on the board, I think she will motivate everyone to dream big.”
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Posted on: 7/16/2013