Monday night, the Knox County Board of Education approved a $432.2 million budget for the next school year.
The budget reflects a 2.97 percent increase from the current year, and includes a 2.5 percent salary increase for teachers.
From the first proposal of his budget, Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre focused heavily on teacher salaries. Initially, he asked for a 3 percent raise for teachers before an announcement from Governor Bill Haslam forced the district to reconsider.
The Board of Education opened their Monday night meeting prepared to talk about an adjusted salary increase of 2 percent. After a lengthy discussion, they settled on 2.5 percent.
However, that could prove challenging because it requires more money (about $4.5 million) than the district is getting in revenues.
Board member Karen Carson said, if they don't ask for more they will never get it.
"I think it's irresponsible for me to not to ask for what we know we need," she said. "I think the school system has been very clear about setting out strategies with the entire community - and that includes our funding body and our mayor."
Carson and other board members have repeatedly raised concern about how Knox County teacher salaries trail other local districts.
"It's really important that we make our pay competitive," she said. "Right now, a teacher could leave Knox County, not have to move their home and just commute and make higher pay."
Before the budget is finalized, it must first get approval from Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, and the Knox County Commission as they review the full county budget.
Commission Chairman Brad Anders said approving the extra funding in school budget will be difficult, considering the revenue projections.
"Nobody disagrees that teachers could make more, should make more," he said. "I understand it's their job to do the best they can for their teachers. But it's also the job of the sheriff to ask for his deputies. It's Dr. [Martha] Buchanan's job to ask for her clinicians and her support staff. While they can just think of one group, we have to think of the whole group."
Even without the additional funding, Knox County educators could see a bump in their pay next year. Within the balanced revenue projection, McIntyre included a 0.7 percent pay increase for teachers.
You can read more about Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre's budget here.