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Higher pay draws teachers, EMS workers

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Wilson County Director of Schools Mike Davis has told the County Commission several times about the problem the county schools have in retaining good teachers, and he said he thinks it is at least in part due to salary.

While he said the teachers don’t say money is the reason they leave, they do quite consistently go to higher paying districts, when they remain in the teaching profession.

“We’re at a crossroads, and we have to decide which way to go,” Davis said at the most recent commission meeting. “Our mission statement says we want to provide a world class education. Our test scores are great, but we need good teachers.”

He said the schools have had to replace 13 math teachers already this year.

In fact, Assistant Director Mickey Hall said, there are 100 new teachers in the current orientation group, and they are all new hires since August 2007, he said.

Hall also added that the teacher orientation group has been at 95-plus for the past two or three years, which means almost 10 percent of Wilson County’s 1,100 teachers are leaving each school year

Wilson County’s tax rate is only slightly lower than most surrounding counties at $2.23 per $100 of assessed value.

Wilson County firefighters start out at $28,622 per year, while Nashville’s lowest rate is $38,012, for firefighters who also qualify as EMTs. Wilson County EMTs start out at $32,771, still well below their counterparts in Nashville.

Rutherford County’s firefighters are all volunteers, but the EMTs there start out at $30,830.

The situation for paramedics is very similar, with Wilson County paramedics starting at $39,042.24 per year, while Nashville’s start at $46,504 and Rutherford’s start at $38,670.

Both of the other counties have a 10-step advance plan which has their employees topping out much higher than Wilson County’s emergency personnel who reach top salary in only three years.

Wilson County Mayor Robert Dedman says he sees the problems caused by the difference in pay and hopes to be able to work toward closing the gap.

 “I plan to propose giving all county employees a raise,” Dedman said. “I’m going to make motion in Finance Committee, to use growth money for about an 8 percent raise for all our employees.”

He added that he hopes to be able to offer that much across the board because, “We’re losing too many good employees. We lose teachers, fireman and other good employees to better paying counties. We really need to reorganize whole system.”

Giving emergency personnel that 8 percent raise would bring the wages much closer to those in other counties, bringing the starting salary for firefighters to $30,911, for EMTs to $35,392 and for paramedics to $42,165.

If the county did need to raise taxes, for each penny of increase in the amount, there would be an extra $260,000 to meet needs in the county, said Ron Gilbert, county finance director. 

To give teachers a 3 percent cost of living raise requested for them by the county Board of Education, but not budgeted so far, would cost 5.25 cents per $100 for taxpayers.

Wilson County’s tax rate in 2007 was $2.48, or 25 cents higher than the new certified rate that was released this past week.

Staying at the old rate would raise $65 million more than the new certified rate, enough to offer all county employees a raise and have more than $60 million toward other needs.

Nashville’s property tax rate is the highest in the area at $4.69 per $100 of assessed value. Williamson’s rate is $2.31 and Rutherford’s is $2.56, but Wilson is still lower at $2.23.

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