Gov. Bill Haslam says he won’t be able to give state employees and teachers a pay increase next year mainly because of reductions due to an ongoing decline in revenue collections, and that statement means the Franklin County Board of Education might be going back to the budget drawing board.
Haslam said in an Associated Press story that poor revenue collections are forcing him to make $150 million in reductions for the remainder of this budget year, and $160 million for next year.
Financial officials said sales tax collections have fallen short by $33 million, and franchise and excise taxes — also known as business tax collections — are down $215 million.
Haslam says he regrets not being able to give pay raises, and that state officials are investigating why businesses taxes, in particular, continue to fall short of projections.
Lance Williams, Franklin County Board of Education member, explained how he deems the system’s position on the matter.
He said the School Board has begun the process to develop next year’s budget, and Dr. Rebecca Sharber, director of schools has been keeping board members informed about the state budget process. He added that more information should be available this month, but with the governor’s announcement, the approach to the upcoming budget by board members will probably change.
“We had spoken about the state level pay raises in March and had a brief discussion about how we would cover the support personnel raises,” Williams said. “With no state level raises, we will be starting that discussion over.
“I would love for all of our teachers and support personnel to receive raises, but the school board is not the funding body of the county. We will have to work with the County Commission and determine if that is a possibility for next year’s budget.”
Board member Mike Holmes echoed Williams’ assessment.
“I believe that since there won’t be a state mandated pay increase, we won’t be able to fiscally support a pay increase this year,” he said. “Although the state only funds the amount of teachers that are part of the (Basic Education Program), it is a huge help when we are giving pay increases.
“When the state mandates a pay increase, they only fund the increase for the number of teachers under the BEP, so the local education authority is responsible for the remaining teachers’ increase.”
Sharber said she has doubts the County Commission would approve the funding for the school system to offer a pay increase.
“We are currently in the process of building our budget for 2014-2015,” she said. “We do not expect that the local government will be willing to give us more funding than what we have received in the past. I have been here for five years and the local funding has not been increased.”