The Wilson County Commission received and discussed the Wilson County Schools annual budget Monday, although discussion did not include the district’s needs assessment list.
The meeting brought together the Wilson County budget and education committees to discuss the district’s budget, which was presented by Deputy Director Mickey Hall.
The school’s proposed budget includes a proposed change to salaries of certified personnel entering the district. The scaled salary plan details the starting salary for teachers based on their years of experience and if they have an additional degree.
Starting pay for teachers entering the district include: $40,000 for a teacher with no experience ($43,000 for additional degree); $41,250 for a teacher with five years ($44,250 for additional degree); $42,500 for a teacher with 10 years ($48,500 for additional degree); $45,000 for a teacher with 15 years ($51,000 for additional degree); and $49,000 for a teacher with 20 or more years ($52,500 for additional degree).
“We’ve always had a placement schedule since 2014. It’s not new. We did make some adjustments in it this year,” said Hall, noting no current teacher would make less than the placement schedule.
Other budget items include a request from the board to approve a $3.7 million bond issue with the board supplying the funds from liquor tax proceeds over 20 years to cover athletic facility construction at several high schools.
Those projects include new indoor facilities at Lebanon, Wilson Central and Watertown high schools (similar to the indoor facility at Mt. Juliet High School), track repair and renovations at Mt. Juliet High School and tennis court repairs at all four high schools.
Commissioners questioned other portions of the budget, including the expansion of the STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand) program into middle schools, the amount of deputy directors in the district and the impact of Gov. Bill Lee’s school safety measures on Wilson County.
Lee announced earlier this year a $40 million investment for the school safety grant fund, as well as law changes that would ease the burden of about 500 Tennessee schools that did not have school resource officers.
Lee said the new funding plan also enables schools that currently have an SRO to pursue grants to fund other safety priorities such as implementing building security measures or developing innovative violence prevention programs.
Hall and Commissioner Terry Ashe, who also serves as Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security deputy commissioner and chief of staff, said districts in the most need would receive the most funds, as they understand the plan.
Wilson County, seen as a model for other districts and counties looking to implement a school resource officer program, would receive minimal funds from the state, according to Hall.
Commissioner Annette Stafford raised a question regarding the five deputy directors in the school district after she said she received questions from residents. Hall said former Director of Schools Jim Duncan created his position in 2004. Former Director Tim Setterlund converted the human resources supervisor to the role of Deputy Director of Talent, as well as created the Deputy Director of Academics and the Deputy Director of Students Services.
Director Donna Wright converted the supervisor of accountability to the Deputy Director of Accountability.
Stafford said she inquired to make sure the positions were not new positions in this year’s budget.
Commissioner Sara Patton inquired about a $196,000 move from the district’s safe school grants fund to its STARS funding. The program is currently in the district’s high schools, and the move would expand the program into middle schools.
Hall called the program “invaluable” to students, and a benefit to school counselors.
“If we have a situation that occurs where someone dies or someone is in a wreck or something like that happens, they also provide that extra support for our staff and students,” said Hall, who said STARS counselors also provide grief counseling and conduct home visits, when necessary.
“They’re also acting as mental health counselors, because school counselors - guidance counselors as we used to call them - are not trained. That is not an expectation of their job,” Wright said.
Wright said the service is important for families who might not be able to afford private counseling.
“It’s a service we couldn’t provide otherwise,” Wright said.
Hall did not present the district’s needs assessment list, which includes a nearly $4 million teacher salary increase aimed at helping fill gaps caused by previous salary increases for teachers.
The proposed salary increases include: $1,000 for teachers with five or less years of experience; $2,000 for teachers with six to 10 years of experience; $3,000 for teachers with 11 to 15 years or experience; $4,000 for teachers with 16 to 20 years of experience and $5,000 for teachers with 21 or more years of experience.
Other items on the needs assessment list includes money designated for renovations or new construction at Watertown Middle School and Lakeview Elementary School, land procurement for a new elementary and high school and construction of two new elementary schools.
The Wilson County Education and Budget committees will take action next week on the district’s budget and needs assessment lists before it moves to the full commission.