District 8 Hamilton County Commissioner Tim Boyd met with some of his constituents Thursday night at the Community Center to provide the real numbers behind why he is opposed to a proposed tax increase for education.
Boyd said the numbers provided by the Hamilton County Board of Education (HCBE) to encourage support of its $34 million increase in its budget are skewed.
“I’m gonna be as factual as possible,” Boyd said. “The (HCDE) numbers, are they truthful? Is it misinformation or is it factual? I don’t know.”
Boyd took exception with the HCDE on almost ever statistic it has produced regarding the proposed increase.
Boyd said the total number of additional employees proposed under the 2020 budget is not 354 positions. He said in reality, the HCDE has already added 76 positions during the school year, bringing the actual number to 430.
Of those positions, Boyd said that Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson said 52 of those jobs would be teaching jobs.
Boyd said the HCDE’s new budget is reportedly $443 million. But when you factor in federal money that number jumps to $527 million.
“I’m trying to get the truth out,” Boyd told the more than 50 people in attendance. “So if you don’t want a no vote, you better scream. I’m a solid no.”
Boyd said the 5 percent raise in teachers’ salaries under the new budget is misleading. He said that with a STEP increase raise – additional money for experience and longevity – teachers would actually see an eight to 10 percent increase in pay.
Boyd said that he agreed that teachers need a raise. However, a 10 percent bump in one year, he said, was unheard of in the private sector. He pointed to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers getting a 2.25 percent increase this year. He noted that Bradley County is proposing a two percent increase in teacher pay.
On the issue of teacher pay and the perceived poaching of Hamilton County teachers to work across the state line in Georgia, Boyd said that the current pay in Hamilton County is on par with Catoosa County in Georgia.
“It’s the working environment, people,” Boyd said of teachers leaving Hamilton County.
Boyd said he recently spoke with a teacher/coach at Sale Creek about salaries in the schools. The man had a Masters degree and 20 years experience. Boyd said the man said he deserved a higher salary.
“I said, ‘I can understand,'” Boyd told the audience. “I told him there was an administrative assistant’s position open at the (HCDE) central office that pays $80,000 a year, and he should apply for it.”
Boyd said that the 2017 tax increase for the schools was a capital tax increase used to enhance facilities. This year’s proposed increase is “operational.”
He said that a consulting firm – hired at $500,000 – has yet to file a report concerning school facilities. That report is due in September or October. Boyd said that yet another tax increase “is looming.”
When asked if the commission voted tomorrow on a budget what would the result be. Boyd said that it would be voted down, 6-3.
Boyd said he hoped the commission would vote the budget down, necessitating a continuing budget amendment. Negotiations with Mayor Jim Coppinger would then begin one-on-one with individual commissioners.
“He (Coppinger) would ask me ‘what I could tolerate,'” Boyd said. “I can’t tolerate anything … If we can’t get a balanced budget, including the growth money ($18 million from the county by virtue of increased tax revenue), then that’s it.”
On May 21, Mayor Coppinger, Dr. Johnson and School Board Member Tucker McClendon will host a “budget information session, at East Ridge High School. The meeting starts at 6 p.m. and is open to the public.