By mtjulietintern

Decision comes following talks about increase in pay for substitute teachers

The Wilson County school board approved its 2017-2018 fiscal year budget Monday after some conversation on an increase in funds for substitute teachers. 

The board approved the $141-million budget on a 6-1 vote. Wayne McNeese casted the lone vote against the budget after he questioned the increase to fund substitute teachers.

“We started contracting our subs out. Looks like to me that last year we spent $689,000. This year, we got budgeted $900,000. That’s a heck of a difference in something that’s supposed to be a wash,” McNeese said.

The group tapped Education Service Solutions last year to handle the district’s substitute teacher procedures. Former deputy director Mary Ann Sparks said the move was necessary for the district to meet the need to free up a person in the human resources department, among other things.

Deputy director Mickey Hall said the move would not “adversely” effect the district’s budget or require the district to ask for any more money from the county commission if the number of needed substitutes was similar to previous years. 

Hall said the cost increase is due to the additional number of teachers in the district and the company’s requirement of maintaining a 95 percent rate for substitutes.

Hall said most expenses in the budget were relative to new staff, the opening of Springdale Elementary School in Mt. Juliet, teacher pay, infrastructure and more.

The Wilson County Budget Committee will discuss the budget and needs assessment list Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the Wilson County Courthouse. Last week, budget committee chairman Mike Justice said he preferred to wait to discuss the district’s needs assessment list until after Monday’s school board meeting.

The Wilson County Education Committee tasked the budget committee earlier this month to examine the district’s needs assessment list and create a plan that would implement as many items on the list as possible without a property tax increase for citizens, if possible.

Items on the list included funding for bus driver pay raises, a digital transformation plan, a new high school in Mt. Juliet, a summer roofing program and a 4 percent raise for teachers.

The biggest financial need is for the new high school in Mt. Juliet on property adjacent to W.A. Wright Elementary School, estimated at $110 million.

A 4-percent salary raise for county teachers also appeared on the needs list, which would cost about $3.2 million, along with a recommendation from Wilson County Schools transportation director Jerry Partlow, who suggested a $2 raise for bus drivers, at about $708,000, which includes benefits, in an attempt to combat the district’s bus driver shortage.

A three-year digital transformation plan is also included in the needs assessment. The plan totals $15 million, and Wilson County Director of Schools Donna Wright said the district’s last textbook adoption for math cost around $2 million alone.

By Xavier Smith