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County schools budget includes across-the-board 3 percent raise

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Rutherford County Schools will have a balanced budget this year with no tax increase, according to Director of Schools Don Odom.

"That's what everybody wants to hear," Odom told the school board at the end of its budget meeting Thursday evening - but that was only the bottom line.

The board members also approved hiring three new certified athletic safety coaches and agreed that a proposed 3 percent, across-the-board raise is in the budget.

They also discussed a new step plan for wages of classified employees, but agreed to table that until their next meeting.

The step plan would even out wages for all classified workers based on their skill and educational levels as well as number of years of experience, according to Assistant Superintendent for Budget and Finance Jeff Sandvig.

Coaches for sets of sports

The three safety coaches would each cover a set of sports, according to the proposed job description approved by the board.

One would be responsible to oversee safety issues for football, wrestling and strength and conditioning. A second coach would supervise safety in soccer, basketball, track and cross country. The third coach would check safety practices in volleyball, cheerleading, swimming, baseball and softball.

Each coach would check for proper equipment, keep track of injuries and make sure coaching staff receive the correct training about safety, along with other related duties - and report to County Athletic Director Tim Tackett.

"This is an eyes-on position," said Odom. "Then they will report back. We'll know better what we need to do when we have more data."

Vote to approve is 7-0

The coaches would work part-time after school since that is when games and practices are conducted. They would be required to be certified teachers with at least five years of coaching experience.

All the board members agreed that this is a very important position and they voted unanimously to approve hiring these first three coaches. "This is just to get the ball rolling," said Board Chair Jeff Jordan. "We may add more after we assess the responsibilities."

"Training of coaches needs to be a high priority," said Board Member Terry Hodge, who also chaired the safety committee that recommended the new coaches. "Most of our coaches want to get more training."

Revenues are up

Odom also said that state and local revenue estimates came in Wednesday night and they appear to be good news, since all are a little higher than expected. The state BEP estimate is up by 7 percent or $13,345,000 in additional dollars.

Federal estimates are up by 2.7 percent or an extra $31,953. Local property taxes are up 2.9 percent or $2,155,000 - and local option taxes such as sales tax and wheel tax are up by 6.7 percent, or about $7 million.

However, Odom also added that the state funding numbers won't be final until the state budget is passed, probably later this month. Sandvig said he expects to have better information by the first of May.

State may still OK vouchers

Board Member Lisa Moore also told the board that the state legislature is still considering the bill which would allow Memphis students in failing schools to receive vouchers to attend private schools.

Board Member Aaron B. Holladay pointed out that this is being called a pilot program, which means it would not necessarily be limited to Memphis.

"The idea that this is only for Memphis is a lie," he said.

Odom pointed out that the older law allowing special needs students to go to private schools with vouchers has several problems - not the least of which is that parents must sign off all of their child's rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act to receive the payments.

Holladay added that so far, only 35 students have signed up for the voucher plan, but state legislators are saying that 13,000 more slots are needed, in addition to the original 20,000 already available.

Moore said the good news is that a bill which would have required school board elections to be partisan is officially dead, at least for this year, which got applause from the audience.

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