What’s behind a budget increase? – Part 1

Last year we spent $674 million educating more than 79,000 students. Every year that number goes up – and not necessarily because we want it to. Inflation hits individuals and organizations alike. We have to pay more for many of the same services we receive year to year.

For 2012-13, the Board of Education has approved a budget increase of more than $48 million over the 2011-12 budget. But you may be surprised to learn a huge majority of that increase comes from unavoidable increases. The rest would be dedicated to programs aimed at increasing achievement, bettering our schools, and graduating more students.

So where would it all go? Let’s take a look.

PEOPLE

The most expensive part of almost any organization is people. A school district is no exception. Some 80% of our budget goes to people – salaries, insurance, and pensions. Every year the amount of money required to keep those people goes up just a little bit. Insurance costs rise and many employees are eligible for “step” salary increases.

SEE the approved budget proposal in its entirety.

On top of that, the State of Tennessee has passed a 2.5% raise for teachers, and the district pays most of that. This year, we’re also proposing a 2% raise for support employees. These are the bus drivers, school secretaries, cafeteria staff, and many more who have not had a raise since 2008. They deserve one.

This year we’re also opening a new elementary school in Cane Ridge, because of big growth in that area. That requires hiring 13 new employees and boosting maintenance and custodial budgets. Across the district, we expect about 1,700 new students next year, meaning we have to hire new teachers to keep up our teacher-to-student ratios within state law. That’s 100 new teachers. Add to that three more school days next year (which are also more paid days for support staff) and two new charter schools opening. They’re all necessary additions and they all cost money.

So when you add all of that together, where do we stand? Just these needed – and in some cases unavoidable – costs come to an additional $39.4 million for 2012-13. That’s more than 80% of our requested budget increase.

Next we’ll talk about some of the specific proposals to make our schools even better, including how to turn Nashville into a destination for the very best new teachers in the country.

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