Metro school board approves $723M education budget

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 11:38pm

Director of Schools Jesse Register’s proposed $722.9 million education budget received unanimous school board approval Tuesday night and is now set to go before Mayor Karl Dean’s administration.

As expected, the Metro school board voted 8-0 Tuesday night to approve a set of budget priorities for the 2012-13 fiscal year that amounts to a sizeable $48.9 million increase over the current fiscal year. Clearing Tuesday’s hurdle, the budget will next be the topic of discussion April 13 as part of the mayor’s budget hearings as Dean’s administration prepares an operating budget for Metro.

“It’s a big request, but we feel like we’ve had great support from Mayor Dean and the Metro Council,” Register said. “We think they mean what they say. They want to make education the top priority in the community.”

During Register’s tenure in Nashville, Dean and the council each year have funded MNPS to the level of the school board’s request.

At issue this budget cycle is a Metro schools budget that would be the largest increase in recent memory: 7.3 percent greater than the current fiscal year’s $674 million budget.

With Metro’s enrollment already nearing 80,000, school officials are expecting an additional 1,600 to 1,700 students next year. To accommodate for growth, the budget includes an additional 100 new teaching positions.

Other expenditures are set aside for the opening of the new Cane Ridge Elementary School and a 2 percent salary increase for some support staff workers. In addition, the budget accounts for traditional budgetary requirements –– so-called “fixed costs” such as salary step increases for certain employees and rising insurance and pensions costs.

Dollars are also set aside for new initiatives including a Register-endorsed plan to bump the starting salary of teachers to $40,000. The idea, he has said, is to put Metro in better position to compete for top-tier teachers.

“We no longer want to be 27th in the state in beginning teacher pay,” Register said. “We want to be very competitive in being able to recruit the highest quality teachers to our district.”

Register has also planned a so-called “Bridge School,” to help the transition from middle to high school, which requires funding. The budget also accounts for Dean’s “Music Makes Us” program, conceived as an overhaul of the district’s music education program.

According to the district’s chief financial Chris Henson, the requested budget is likely to experience some slight changes after school officials gather further revenue information.

Like recent budget cycles, the district is feeling the pressure of a tight budget with limited revenue. But this time, dominating chatter over the budget process is a possible property tax hike, which would be Metro’s first since 2005.

8 Comments on this post:

By: govskeptic on 4/11/12 at 7:04

Seems it was just yesterday we were complaining about a 500 million
dollar budget. How much of this increase, I wonder, is for the
education of all the new immigrants into the system that speak little
or no English? Does this increase include lots of new Teachers and
or programs that are going to do miracles (literally) to improve our
poor test scores and graduation rates? Just asking_ _ _ _

By: parnell3rd on 4/11/12 at 7:05

"We no longer want to be 27th in the state for begining teacher pay" Register said. Score another payday for the teachers union getting more money!
We afre all having to cut back and Mr Register want 7.3% more.
The metro school system is nothing more than politics. If "They" don't like you, "you" don't teach!

By: MusicCity615 on 4/11/12 at 10:01

Why give a straight raise to teachers? Why can't there be a pool reserved for rewarding teachers whose students perform well?

By: edsupp on 4/11/12 at 10:47

You would have to define "perform well." Are they going to reward teachers who teach advanced students or teachers who teach below basic students that they teach up to basic, proficient, or advanced students? If they reward teachers for teaching already advanced students then that is not fair to those who do not teach these students. If they reward teachers who move kids to a higher level, then that is not fair to those that teach the advanced students who can not go any higher.

By: MusicCity615 on 4/11/12 at 11:26

good questions edsupp-

There are several ways to employ this, but anything would be better than an entitlement pay raise to teachers just because they are showing up.

By: edsupp on 4/11/12 at 11:45

I agree MusicCity but Metro does need to do something to attract better teachers. Having a starting salary at $40,000 would attract more teachers. The only question is would it attract better teachers? I am sure that current teachers would also expect, and rightfully so, that their salaries would go up in line with the new starting pay.

By: jsabrown on 4/11/12 at 5:21

First, does anyone around here realize that the MNPS student population has increased by about 15% over the past three years? Does anyone around here realize that last years budget saw no increase?

MNPS has gone several years with no or too little capital improvement funds. The city's built a single elementary school and added a few wings here and there to handle a student body that increased by 11K. Roofs have gone without repair and buses have gone without being replaced. Air conditioning units not only are failing, but are far less efficient than they could be, increasing the money MNPS has to spend on electricity.

Capital budgets attract the knives when budgets are tight, but the practice can sometimes backfire. For instance, a roof that might cost $10K to repair this year might leak and cause enough structural damage that the same repair would cost $100K next year.

State and Federal laws require that MNPS replace school buses after 15 years of use, which means they have to buy about 40 buses every year at ~$80K per bus just to keep up. This does not include buses to accommodate increased enrollment. MNPS has purchased the absolute minimum number of buses over the past several years, and will eventually have to do something to catch up. The non-bus rolling stock has been essentially ignored during this same period (well, except for Register's pretty SUV, which is washed, waxed and fueled weekly by MNPS Transportation).

MNPS support employees are among the lowest paid city employees. That 2% raise for support employees is going to people who haven't seen any sort of raise in five years. Some saw their pay cut by 15% three years ago. Register, of course, got a nice 10% raise last year, give or take.

As for attracting quality teachers, I think it's very strange how folks will tell me companies have to pay executives massive salaries to attract the best people, but turn around and claim increasing teacher pay won't have the same effect.

Puh-leeze.

By: parnell3rd on 4/12/12 at 10:21

Of that 15% increase how many are illegal's?