Community provides input on Knox Schools budget

Tuesday night, parents and community members got their chance to weigh in on a spending plan for Knox County Schools.

Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre took his FY15 budget proposal to a small crowd at Christenberry Elementary in North Knoxville, and heard input from the community.

"It has been our practice over the years when we have a budget recommendation to listen to folks and hear what they have to say and then try to answer questions," McIntyre said. "So that's what this is about, just getting some feedback."

He first presented his $433.7 million plan last week, which puts top priorities on a new magnet academy in Knoxville and teacher raises. On the same night, Governor Bill Haslam announced a curve ball to the Knox County plan-- state revenues were too low to include raises for teachers and other state employees into his budget.

"We were expecting an additional $6 million in BEP [Basic Education Program] funding, and we received about $2.6 million less than that," McIntyre explained.

"I will say this, it remains a priority for me to enhance teacher salaries. So we're working through exactly how to do that and what this potential loss of about $2.6 million in revenue will do to that."

Some people shared ideas, like Knox County teacher Lauren Hopson. She suggested a change to the APEX merit-system currently used in teacher compensation.

"My suggestion would be taking that money that we are already putting into APEX if we are going to increase teacher pay and putting that back into our salary system," Hopson said.

Other made a case for value of community schools and fee-waiver initiatives.

"Whether it's costing us raises or coaches or whatever – the money has to go back to our kids. We cannot go back on paying for our most needy kids," Hopson added.

Takia Faniyi has two children in the district, and came to listen to the discussion Tuesday night.

"I feel like those are good questions," she said of the teachers. "Because I want to make sure my child is having a good relationship with teachers who are happy to be teachers here at Christenberry and across the board in Knox County schools."

Tuesday, McIntyre also introduced his capital budget plan. The $15 million proposal covers facility and renovation costs in the district.

Among his priories, McIntyre asked for $1.3 million to add more space to Mooreland Heights Elementary.

"Mooreland Heights experienced a significant and somewhat unexpected increase in enrollment this year," he said. "The Montgomery Village Housing development was renovated and so we saw a significant increase in enrollment there."

His plan also calls for about $3.8 million in continued school security updates, and $75,000 for a study about Knox County middle school enrollment and facility dynamics.


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