ROGERSVILLE — During its June 11 special called meeting, the Hawkins County Board of Education voted to eliminate a 2% pay increase for teachers from the 2020-21 budget in reaction to Gov. Bill Lee's announcement that he is withdrawing the state's portion of the funding to support those raises.
Overall, the 2% pay increase for Hawkins County teachers was projected to be a recurring cost increase of $872,000, with $435,000 of that coming from the state. On June 4, the BOE had approved its 2020-21 fiscal year budget, which included the 2% teacher raises. That budget also utilized more than $4.7 million in savings to balance.
Rather than absorbing the lost state revenue to keep the teacher raises in the budget, the BOE voted 6-0 with one abstention (Bob Larkins) during its called meeting to cut the raises altogether. In doing that, the BOE eliminated a $447,000 expenditure — the local portion of the teacher raises — from the budget it approved June 4.
In cutting the raises, the BOE reduces the amount of savings being used to balance the proposed 2020-21 budget to $4.271 million.
Teachers will still receive their regular salary scale step raises.
Director of Schools Matt Hixson told the BOE that cuts are coming at all levels of state government, and it was his recommendation to cut the teacher raises due to economic uncertainties that are looming.
“Word is that each state department is being asked to cut as much as 12% at the state level, and that is going to trickle down,” Hixson said. “As tough as this is to talk about, and the implications it has for all employees in Hawkins County, it is a very smart, proactive move to take.”
Hixson added, “With that being said, I want to make it clear to our Hawkins County employees that we greatly value each and every one of you. We have heard you; that we do need to do something with salaries (which are among the lowest in the region). We have good benefit packages here in the county, but our salaries do need attention.”
Hixson added that after the final “actual” revenue figures for the current fiscal year are in — probably some time in August — and if the numbers support it, he may be recommending a one-time stipend for teachers to offset the loss of their raises
The motion approved by the BOE also acknowledged there will an effort, if the numbers support it, to provide a bonus for teachers in the 2020-21 fiscal year.
The revised proposed school budget must still go to the Hawkins County Commission's Budget Committee, and won't be finalized until it is approved by the full commission as part of the county's overall 2020-21 budget.