Knox County schools staff 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 have prioritized increasing teacher salaries 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 Wednesday night.
The budget, boosted by a tax revenue surplus, also increases the number of social workers and mental health counselors in schools.
The district budget is made up of funds from local sales and property taxes. It also includes funding from the Tennessee State Education Fund, the Basic Education Program.
This year’s budget is up $49.5 million from last year. The board also passed its separate capital budget and nutrition budget of $48.1 million.
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The nutrition budget includes a 15% increase for school nutrition staff. Knox County Schools provides 50,000 meals a day to students across the county.
The capital budget, which emphasizes physical resources rather than operations, funded ongoing projects like the new North West Elementary School and the replacement school for Adrian Burnett Elementary School.
General purpose budget
This is what your taxes pay:
$25.5 million in raises and benefits
Teachers’ aides, office staff and janitors will receive an 8% salary increase as part of the budget.
Certified and classified employees—teachers, librarians, counselors and other specialists—will receive a 4% pay raise. Eligible staff will receive increments on their salary scale.
“We continue to see smaller surrounding districts with fewer vacancies come in and do our best,” Thomas said. “So we have to keep improving our wages and benefits.”
The school district will maintain its contributions to health insurance plans. The state is planning a 6% increase in premium costs.
$6 million for new student support positions
Knox County Schools will add 42 new positions in the areas of special education, health services, family and community relations, and English language learning.
These 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 fields so they can be a stable part of the district’s future.
The larger budget allows Knox County Schools to add 18 social workers, school counselors and school cultural professionals.
The district is creating a brand new role targeting chronic student absenteeism. Knox County’s chronic school truancy rate of 16.6% is higher at the state level, Thomas said.
Another new position is that of Principal of the new Northwest Elementary School, which is scheduled to open in the 2023-2024 school year.
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 these positions will be school security officers, one is a sergeant position, and one is an existing security position that was funded through a grant.
The investment in security is part of the $2.7 million budgeted for administrative and operational increases. This includes five new positions in technology, maintenance and operations and 10 new positions in academic support.
The capital budget, which provides funds for facilities, includes funds for new construction and other construction projects. This year’s budget allocates funds for several elementary school projects to ease population pressure in schools in Farragut, Hardin Valley and North Central.
Here are the notable elements of the capital budget:
- $3 million to replace HVAC in Austin-East, Fulton, Karns Annex, Powell High and Vine Middle. The district is injecting $4 million toward HVAC replacement at Cedar Bluff Middle School in the 2024 fiscal budget.
- $5 million for roofing projects, including $3.2 million for finishing the new roof at Austin-East, a partial new roof at Pleasant Ridge Elementary and a new roof at Ritta Elementary School.
- $3 million in security upgrades like replacing worn locks, replacing aging CCTV servers and adding fencing to some sites.
- $3 million for a new elementary school in Farragut to reduce pressure on existing elementary and middle schools. According to the capital budget proposal, the district has identified a potential site and is assessing its viability. The new Farragut School is slated to accommodate 1,200 students and is expected to open in August 2025. The school is expected to cost $32.57 million in total.
- $10.97 million for an addition to Hardin Valley Academy is 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 largest high schools. comparable.
- $1 million for a softball field at West High School to address a Title IX mismatch. West’s baseball team has an on-campus facility, but the softball team does not. The project is estimated at $4 million in total.
- $8.95 million for the new Northwest Elementary School, 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 an addition to Sterchi Elementary School, part of the North Central Elementary Solution. The North Central solution is a response to the growth and population pressure in these neighborhoods, including the expansion of Brickey-McCloud. The addition of Sterchi will add capacity for 250 students and modernize the cafeteria and library. Projected at $18.5 million over the next two years, the district expects to accept construction offers in the spring of 2023.
- $4.6 million for a replacement school for Adrian Burnett, also as part of the North Central solution.
- $1 million for fire alarm upgrades; the district has completed upgrades to 22 schools, will complete nine more in the remainder of this fiscal year, and expects to complete upgrades to 15 schools in fiscal year 2023.
The capital budget includes funds for annual recurring maintenance, such as $500,000 for system-wide drives, parking and roadway and $250,000 for environmental testing and remediation, which includes asbestos, radon and water testing.
What’s next for the budget?
The budget must be approved by the Knox County commission. The commission reviews a budget from the county mayor’s office that incorporates the school district’s proposal.
The county commission will vote in May on this larger budget. Commissioners must approve the final amount of funding for the district, but do not determine how the funds will be used.