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    Sullivan County Budget Committee rejects proposed school budget

    By Jayonna ScurryFaith Little,

    2024-06-13

    https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=28iYBN_0tph7kiU00

    BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Sullivan County Budget Committee rejected a budget proposal from the Sullivan County School Board on Wednesday that would include a 15% raise for all school system staff.

    Teachers, faculty, staff and even students gathered at the meeting for the second week in a row as they listened to the county’s budget committee on what it would take to provide that raise.

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    With shared revenue, the budget committee said it would cost nearly 15 million dollars and a 37-cent property tax hike to make the proposed budget happen.

    Sullivan County Director of Schools Chuck Carter told News Channel 11 after the meeting that he was disappointed to hear the committee’s decision to reject the budget proposal, but that it won’t stop them from trying to make it work.

    “We were presented with some information tonight,” he said. “That was first time that we were seeing that, those final numbers. We want to take that back and review it first, match it up with what we have on our books and see where we’re actually at. I’m not ready to comment on if that’s what we have or not. So after we do that, then we need to talk back with our our school board, get their thoughts and then come back with a proposed budget.”

    Alesia Dinsmore, principal at Rock Springs Elementary, said she wants to advocate for her employees and that they will keep fighting for better pay.

    “They are working two jobs and they work in the summer,” Dinsmore said. “They have to pay medical bills, grocery bills, housing and that’s not to even mentioned other various things. It is not fair for my teachers to have to make a lot less than other districts.”

    One of those teachers is Tracy Huffman, who works two jobs to make ends meet. She has worked in Sullivan County Schools for 11 years and has a bachelor’s, masters and a education specialist degree.

    “So my pay, which is public knowledge, is $64,000,” Huffman said. “So what that means is when entry level teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no experience come in, their paychecks will be about $100 away from my paycheck. And I think the only way to level the field and to keep teachers that have experience in advanced degrees in Sullivan County is to show their appreciation and professionalism by giving them a raise.”

    Huffman said she is okay with the potential of property taxes being raised for this cause.

    “That would mean the average person would pay less than 20 extra dollars a month to give every teacher in Sullivan County a 15% raise,” Huffman said.

    “No one wants to raise taxes. At the same time, if we don’t continue to give our teachers these raises, they can’t afford the inflation that we’re living through. As a single mom, it is very difficult it is paycheck to paycheck and so in order to stay in Sullivan County, which I love, I have to be able to support my family.”

    Katie McGhee, another teacher at Rock Springs Elementary, agreed and said many fellow teachers do not want to work somewhere else to make a living.

    “I think it’s important to note that there are a lot of teachers who chose Sullivan County, that that’s our mission field and that’s our home,” McGhee said. “I’m a lifelong resident and a graduate. My husband and I are both Sullivan County teachers. And we could choose to go to other districts and be paid more equitably. But we choose to work with the students in Sullivan County. And it would be a gift if that were recognized for the loyalty of the seasoned teachers that choose Sullivan County.”

    Carter also said they are losing many students to neighboring school systems as well as teachers. Teachers plan to speak at the county’s work session during public comment on June 13.

    The Sullivan County Budget Committee will set a time to discuss the school board’s proposal.

    Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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