Amid tax hike whispers, Register talks schools spending needs

Friday, March 9, 2012 at 12:59am

Ahead of a budget season when a property tax hike appears to be on the table, Metro Director of Schools Jesse Register tried to make the case Tuesday night for significant education investments to increase pay for teachers and fix dilapidated schools.

“We must develop plans for expansion and new construction, as our district enrollment continues to grow and schools become overcrowded,” Register said at his annual State of Metro Schools address Tuesday evening.

Register said the district is facing more than $185 million in “unmet capital needs,” pointing specifically to Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet School, long one of Metro’s highest-achieving schools, which nonetheless lacks a functional gym.

He added that he recently met with parents of Julia Green Elementary School, who are concerned about the Green Hills-area school’s overcrowding. “We are experiencing similar growth patterns in several other communities throughout the county, and they must be addressed.”

The timing of Register’s spending plea can’t be understated.

In a January phone survey, Mayor Karl Dean’s campaign committee polled Nashvillians on enacting the city’s first tax increase since 2005. The poll asked about a 50-cent increase to Metro’s $4.13 tax rate. Based on its questioning, using added revenue for schools seems like one way to justify a tax hike — if Dean elects to do so.

Dean is set to meet with Metro department heads in the coming weeks to begin hammering out the budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

On top of capital spending needs, Register said the district “must seriously examine our salary structure” for teachers. In the next budget, he said he hopes to raise starting salaries for teachers to $40,000 — an approximate $5,000 bump — while “compressing” teachers’ pay schedule over their first five years.

“This puts us above most districts in Tennessee and will greatly increase our ability to recruit top teachers,” he said.

Register also said the operating budget for the next year would include a 2 percent raise for support staff employees, which includes custodians, groundskeepers and bus drivers.

Altogether, Register’s laundry list of spending needs would require significant spending in Metro schools following several years of tight budgets.

Talking to reporters after the 30-minute address, Register balked at a question about whether a tax hike could be used to pay for the education needs.

“That’s not my call at all,” Register said. “What our job is now is to let the mayor and Metro Council know what our needs are.”

9 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 3/9/12 at 6:59

Heavy spending to maybe get higher results is always the answer and
has been for 30 yrs but the results is always the same! Hume-Fogg is
not physically located for a gym and the Airport is not downtown either!
Reality is no problem, more property taxes will fix all ails per the politicos!

By: edspec on 3/9/12 at 7:12

Govsky, they have had the space for a gym at HFA for the nearly two decades its been on the cap improvement list; and, having put kids thru HFA, I can tell you a gym is desperately needed. The failure to understand the importance of PE/sports is a huge failing of many educational systems, politicians, and publics.

By: Rasputin72 on 3/9/12 at 8:23

Most of the money that is needed by the MNPS system is probably going to go for the increased cost of free lunches and free breakfast for the 65% that are just born into this world for no specific reason.

Very little will go towards helping the 35% who do not get free lunches and free breakfast. I think the parents of these kids are called taxpayers.

By: sharko20 on 3/9/12 at 4:32

NO to property tax hikes!!! What are these people thinking in the midst of this economic crisis? It's always a pay increase for public service workers. Why don't you show taxpayers improvement in public education? Have tests scores improved for students? NO! More money thrown at public education will not fix the problem. It needs to be entirely overhauled.

By: MathGeek on 3/10/12 at 9:55

The needed improvements to some of the oldest, and yet highest performing, schools in the district cannot be ignored. Walk onto those campuses, look at the infrastructure, examine the facilities, and you'll understand how this is not "throwing money at the schools." The facility issues are very real and have been delayed as long as possible in the interest of not wanting to raise property taxes to pay for them. At some point, though, buildings have to undergo significant renovation just to function.

By: pswindle on 3/10/12 at 10:07

If the money was spent on the schools, it would be a good thing. But, they always peddle a tax-increase for schools because it is easier to get it passed if it is for the students. But, where does the money go? It goes where the Mayor wants it to go. If all the extra money had gone to schools, we would have the best schools in the nation.

By: gdiafante on 3/12/12 at 5:38

It needs to be entirely overhauled.

Which costs money...but we can't spend money because the taxpayer doesn't want to spend money, which means education stagnates.

It's a vicious circle.

By: Community-carl-... on 3/12/12 at 3:33

No matter how much money is allocated to MNPS, Jesse Register and other top level administrators will never be satisfied. They need to do what the rest of us do, namely, live within our means. I would also submit that MNPS is top heavy with overpaid upper level administrators.

I suspect that we are seeing the beginnings of a collaborative effort on the part of Karl Dean, Rich Reibeling, and Jesse Register to orchestrate a property tax increase to reach deeper into the pockets of us already struggling middle class taxpayers.

By: thinking12 on 3/16/12 at 9:05

No tax hikes for "schools" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Or any other reason. period

I want to hear from any government(local or national) -we are going to use the resources we have more effectively and efficiently. With total transparency.

If you want a gym for your school-have a bake sale and I bet it will get done better, quicker and with no money wasted because you will be using your dollars and making them work as hard as you do rather than handing the taxes to these guys(Dean, Reibeling, and Register) and having them ask for more because the money went ...........where? And nothing has improved but it sounds so noble.

Don't let them hold your child's education and future hostage to the money pit called "taxes" where no one knows where the money goes and they always need more.

"It's always a pay increase for public service workers" -these men might tell you that but it will be the first thing cut in budget talks and negotiations but if that makes you not votes for tax hikes then that's great!
"Most of the money that is needed by the MNPS system is probably going to go for the increased cost of free lunches and free breakfast for the 65% that are just born into this world for no specific reason.

Very little will go towards helping the 35% who do not get free lunches and free breakfast. I think the parents of these kids are called taxpayers."

It's called matching federal funds.......for Hero/NCLB programs-more of our "taxes" coming back to us!!! Oh, but wait, no child of mine is on any of those programs!

We need to be accountable individually and responsible consistently.