Alcoa City Schools teachers would see no pay raise for the third consecutive year under a proposed 2019-20 budget that includes only the annual step increase.
“We just can’t find it in our budget,” Director Brian Bell told the Alcoa Board of Commissioners during a budget workshop Friday.
Alcoa’s last raise for teachers, 3.6%, was in the 2016-17 school year. Maryville City Schools is planning a 4% raise for employees in the coming year, which will raise the starting pay for a teacher with just a bachelor’s degree to $43,160. In Alcoa the starting teacher salary is $37,800.
The Alcoa Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposed $22.66 million general purpose budget Tuesday.
Alcoa’s enrollment is at its highest level ever — 2,100 students and 11% of the total among the three local districts, Bell said.
While that will increase its share of state and local funding, he explained that the step increase alone costs about $187,000, and this year Alcoa has seen its largest increase in teachers who qualify for more pay because they have earned an advanced degree. Just 13 ACS teachers have only a bachelor’s degree while 18 hold doctorates.
Plus Alcoa will pick up the costs of two employees previously covered with other funding.
One is a school resource officer added this school year, when the position was covered by a one-time state grant for school safety. That allowed each Alcoa school to have a full-time officer, instead of splitting one between the intermediate and middle schools.
The other position is a full-time paraprofessional previously covered by federal Title I funding. That allocation is based on the number of low-income students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches, Bell explained, and that number has been declining.
Increased enrollment also led Alcoa to add a bus, raising its transportation costs by $44,000, Bell said.
Alcoa plans to move one nurse’s position from part time to full, giving the four schools a total of three full-time nurses. A data position will move from part to full time, and the high school is adding a full-time science teacher.
When Commissioner Kenneth White asked about the impact of Gov. Bill Lee’s “Education Savings Account” plan, which will give students money to attend private schools, Bell explained although the plan the General Assembly approved applies only to Davidson and Shelby counties now, the increase to public school funding across the state is less than in recent years.
Under Gov. Bill Haslam, school districts had seen an additional $300 million to $350 million a year in the state Basic Education Program funding formula to help cover expenses such as salary increases, although the calculations don’t cover every position. This year the increase was only $150 million.
“Even though that specific program — Education Savings Accounts — didn’t really affect us, the overall state budget really did,” Bell said.
When White asked about the delay in plans to build an addition to Alcoa Intermediate School, Bell said the building is full, but “we’re not setting up portables in the parking lot.” AIS may have to use some space in the adjacent middle school, he explained.
Noting that Maryville City Schools plans to raise its pay for substitute teachers, Commissioner Clint Abbott asked about Alcoa. Bell said while the draft budget includes more money to cover substitute teachers, the district isn’t proposing a rate hike. “We’d like to,” Bell said. “We just couldn’t find a way to shoehorn it in there.”
Alcoa is paying substitutes $65 a day if they don’t have a degree and $75 if they do. Maryville plans to start substitute pay at $68 a day, with $78 for those who have a degree and $93 for subs with a teaching license.
The proposed budget does include a $400 Christmas bonus for full-time employees and $200 for part-time employees, up from $300 and $150, respectively, last year. The bonuses have replaced $60 gift cards the district previously gave employees.