City might deny teacher raises

Published 10:41 am Friday, June 6, 2014

FRANKLIN—On Monday, some Franklin City Council members verbalized a desire to see the schools funded at the rate requested this year, while others remained silent.

During one of the budget work sessions for Franklin City Council, school board chair Edna King had asked for additional funds, but City Manager Randy Martin couldn’t find room in the budget for anything but level funding.

The school board was asking for an additional $274,702 to help give teachers a 2 percent raise.

“Part of the reason for why we wanted an increase was so we could give the teachers a pay raise, so that we could decrease the amount of turnover in teachers,” said Ward 2 school board member Nancy Godwin. “The state thought our turnover rate was a problem. It would help us keep more of them if our pay was more in-tuned to what the surrounding schools are paying.

“We keep losing teachers after working hard to train them.”

King said that the schools have received level funding since the 2008-2009 school year, and that they would continue to make due if need be.

“We will just do what we have to do,” she said. “We have done it since 2009, and we will continue to provide the best education possible that we can for the students.”

Despite potentially not getting the pay raises, King said that the system has some devoted teachers.

“I think we have some very dedicated teachers,” she said. “I know they are committed to public education, and I’m just hoping that they will stay with us.”

King said she thought the school’s request was fair.

“I thought that we looked at the funding that we have received over the years, and we compared it to the increased cost of living,” she said. “I felt we made the request that we needed to make, in order to provide for the students.”

Level funding from the city is $4,837,395. The schools will also receive a carryover of $345,594 that was saved from last year’s local funding.

Martin said the majority of the board wanted to defer increasing the base funding for the schools to a later work session.

He also said that when the state budget get passed, the schools are anticipated to receive additional money from Richmond.

Martin said that locally the school debt service is also increasing for the city, so that will cause the board to be allocating more money to the schools. The city took on some debt to help pay for some projects, which are being completed or are done, including a new roof and the new track.

Ward 2 Councilman Benny Burgess said he felt that council ought to try to make room this year.

“If the schools are a priority for us, it seems like we need to make them a priority in the budget,” he said. “There’s only so many times they can squeeze the budget. I know by our actions that we have supported them. We have met with them and tried to make them more visible. But they can only do so much with a level budget.

“Just look at the increases that we have had. Since 2008, we have been asking them to fund the same increases with no more money. It puts them in a tight spot.”

Burgess and Ward 1 Councilman Barry Cheatham both said that they wouldn’t look at the debt service as a fair trade-off to an operating budget increase.

“It doesn’t help them on a year-in, year-out basis,” said Burgess.

Burgess also said that the carry-over was inconsistent and not something they could rely on.

Mayor Raystine Ashburn-Johnson said it was something that the city would have to plan for in a fall retreat.

Ward 4 councilwoman Mona Murphy said the schools take precedence.

“They always are a priority,” she said. “It is not like we have not been good to the schools. We have given them what they need.”

Murphy said council needs to talk about it after looking over the options.

Ward 5 councilwoman Mary Hilliard said that usually in the past the real estate tax increases were to help the school division with funding, but lately they have gotten away from that.

“Like the mayor said, we’ll discuss it at the retreat,” she said. “We’ll sit down and have a heart-to-heart and see which way we can go.”

Godwin said she hopes that council changes its mind before they vote on the budget on Monday, June 9.

“I don’t want level funding,” she said. “The teachers are our front-line worker bees in improving our educational system, and they deserve a raise.”