Knox County Schools staffers will get an 8% raise and teachers a 4% raise after the school board approved a $591.5 million budget for fiscal year 2023.
Administrators prioritized increasing teacher pay and retaining good teachers based on feedback from a community survey, Superintendent Bob Thomas said.
Board members voted unanimously to approve the general purpose budget on Wednesday night.
The budget, boosted by a surplus in tax revenue, also increases the number social workers and mental health counselors in schools.
The district’s budget is made up of funds from local sales and property taxes. It also includes funding from Tennessee’s state education fund, the Basic Education Program.
This year’s budget increased by $49.5 million over last year. The board also passed its separate $48.1 million capital budget and nutrition budget.
EARLY RELEASE DAYS:KCS considers early release days where kids go home and teachers can collaborate
The nutrition budget includes a 15% raise for school nutrition staff. Knox County Schools provides 50,000 meals a day to students across the county.
The capital budget, which focuses on physical resources as opposed to operations, funded ongoing projects like the new northwest elementary school and the replacement school for Adrian Burnett Elementary.
General purpose budget
Here’s what your tax dollars are paying for:
$25.5 million in raises and staff benefits
Education assistants, clerical staff and custodians will receive an 8% salary increase under the budget.
Certified and classified employees — teachers, librarians, counselors and other specialists — will receive a 4% salary increase. Eligible personnel will receive step increases on their salary schedule.
“We continue to see smaller surrounding districts with fewer vacancies come in and take our best,” Thomas said. “So we must continue to improve our salaries and benefits.”
The school district will maintain its contributions to health insurance plans. The state is projecting a 6% cost increase in premiums.
$6 million for new positions in student support
Knox County Schools will add 42 new positions in special education, health services, family community relations and English Language Learning.
Those 42 roles will be filled by special education teachers, speech and psychology professionals, and school nurses.
The district will absorb 20 federally funded positions in the same areas so they can be a stable part of the district’s future.
The bigger budget allows Knox County Schools to add 18 social workers, school counselors and school culture professionals.
The district is creating a brand new role targeting students’ chronic absenteeism. Knox County Schools’ chronic absenteeism rate of 16.6% is higher than the state level, Thomas said.
Another new position is a principal for the new northwest-area elementary school, scheduled to open for school year 2023 – 2024.
Additional school security
Knox County Schools will add 22 positions to its security division, and spend more on security software and supplies at a cost of $1.4 million.
Twenty of those positions will be school security officers, one is a sergeant position and one is an existing security position that was funded by a grant.
The investment in security is part of $2.7 million budgeted for administrative and operational increases. That includes five new positions in technology, maintenance and operations and 10 new positions in school support.
The capital budget, which provides funds for facilities, includes funds for new construction and other building projects. This year’s budget allocates funds for several elementary school projects to alleviate population pressure in the Farragut, Hardin Valley and north central schools.
Here are notable items in the capital budget:
- $3 million in HVAC replacement at Austin-East, Fulton, Karns Annex, Powell High and Vine Middle. The district is pushing $4 million in HVAC replacement at Cedar Bluff Middle School to the fiscal budget for 2024.
- $5 million for roofing projects comprised of $3.2 million for finishing the new roof at Austin-East, a partial new at Pleasant Ridge Elementary and new roof at Ritta Elementary School.
- $3 million in security upgrades like replacing worn locksets, replacing aging video surveillance servers and adding fencing at some sites.
- $3 million for a new elementary school in Farragut to reduce the strain on the existing primary and intermediate schools. According to the capital budget proposal, the district has identified a potential site and is assessing its viability. The new Farragut school is intended to hold 1,200 students and projected to open in August 2025. The school is expected to cost $32.57 million total.
- $10.97 million for an addition at Hardin Valley Academy expected to add a net gain of 28 classrooms to the school, putting it on par with the number of classrooms at Farragut and Bearden, the two most comparable high schools.
- $1 million for softball field at West High School to address a Title IX disparity. The baseball team at West has a facility on campus, but the softball team does not. The project is estimated to cost $4 million total.
- $8.95 million for the new northwest elementary school, intended to relieve pressure at Hardin Valley Elementary School. This includes joint projects with Knox County to widen Coward Mills Road and extend the sewer line.
- $3 million for addition at Sterchi Elementary School, part of the North Central elementary solution. The North Central solution is a response to growth and population pressure in those neighborhoods, including the Brickey-McCloud expansion. The Sterchi addition will add capacity for 250 students and upgrade the cafeteria and library. Budgeted for $18.5 million in the next two years, the district plans to accept construction bids in spring 2023.
- $4.6 million for a replacement school for Adrian Burnett, also part of the North Central solution.
- $1 million for fire alarm upgrades; the district has completed upgrades on 22 schools, will complete nine more in the remainder of this fiscal year and expects to complete upgrades on 15 schools in fiscal year 2023.
Included in the capital budget are funds for recurring yearly maintenance such as $500,000 for systemwide drives, parking and pavement and $250,000 for environmental testing and remediation, which includes asbestos, radon and water testing.
What’s next for the budget?
The budget needs final approval from the Knox County Commission. The commission reviews a budget from the county mayor’s office that encompasses the school district’s proposal.
The county commission will vote in May on that larger budget. Commissioners must approve the final funding amount for the district but do not determine how the funds will be used.