Fayette County Public Schools

Skip to main content
Mobile Menu
School Board » School Board News and Information

School Board News and Information

School Board Members visit Fayette-Ware Students

School Board News and Information

 

UNDERSTANDING THE MONEY GAME

In order to evaluate why the School Board needs and is asking for additional funding, it is important to understand how school funding works in Fayette County.

 

Maintenance of Effort

State law requires the County Commission to fund the school system with at least the same amount of money as it did for the previous year. In other words, the Commission cannot reduce funding to schools to make up for shortfalls in the county’s budget.

 

In their infinite wisdom, our state legislators made no provision for increases in the cost of living when they established this law. Nor has the legislature seen fit to add an annual cost of living increment to the law even though they have been asked to do so by school boards.
 
When the Commission’s committees voted last week to fund the schools at “maintenance of effort”, they were voting to give our school system the same amount of money that was given last year and the year before and the year before that with no regard for the rising costs of utilities, insurance and other ongoing expenses.
 
Sales Tax

The school system’s two big sources of funds from the Commission are property taxes and sales tax. These sources plus a few minor ones, such as marriage license fees and mixed drink taxes, make up the county’s Maintenance of Effort.

 

State law mandates that 50% of local sales tax revenue goes to schools. Each year the sales tax revenue in Fayette County has been going up. For the current year, the sales tax for schools was budgeted at $2,967,909. The school share of actual collections is projected to exceed the budgeted amount by around $150,000. The schools will receive that $150,000 this year because state law says so.
 
In the school budget for next year, the Commission will require that sales tax be increased by $150,000 and that property tax be reduced by $150,000 so there is no gain in funding for schools. In other words, the Commission follows the letter of the law by giving 50% of local sales tax to the schools but then keeps more of the property tax for itself to offset the increase in sales tax – zero net gain for schools.
 
Wheel Tax

Everyone, possibly including some Commissioners, thinks that the wheel tax we’re paying is all going to pay for the new school. That is not true.

 

In the small print of Section 5 of the Commission’s June 28, 2011, resolution levying the wheel tax it says, “The proceeds of the motor vehicle privilege tax herein levied…shall be used for capital and debt issues for school construction and other county facilities.” Our wheel tax dollars are also paying for the justice complex and other non-school purposes.
 
School Construction

The previous school administration asked the Commission for an outrageous $18 million to build a new 1,000-student school. Comparable schools in Shelby County were being built for much less. Of course, the Commission said “no” to this request. In May 2011 the School Board and the Commission arrived at a mediated agreement for a 600-student school to cost a maximum of $10.5 million with the Commission committing to pay the first $8 million and the School Board paying the remaining $2.5 million out of its budget at a cost of $171,000 each year.

 

In 2012 the School Board proposed closing two more schools (Central and Northwest) and building a larger 900-student school. The Commission agreed to this but refused to split the extra cost. The School Board was forced to assume the financial burden of the entire $2.3 million in additional construction cost.
 
For the current school year the Board has paid $296,239 in principal and interest out of its own budget toward the bond for the new school construction. This is where a significant portion of the savings from the school closures is being spent.
 
In many counties, their Commission assumes responsibility for building schools and buying buses. Not so in Fayette County.
 
County Share of State Funding

When the State calculates the next year’s funding for the school system, it also assesses the required local (county) share of the funding. This local share is based, in part, on the county’s “ability to pay” according to property values and sales tax revenue.

 

For the coming year, our local share increased by $538,000.

In addition to the Maintenance of Effort paid by the Commission, state law allows the money spent on new schools by the Commission to be counted as part of the local share. As a result, the schools will not receive any additional funding despite the increased local share.

 

Asbestos Abatement

When the old high school was buried in 1987 to avoid paying for properly and legally disposing of asbestos materials, some citizens and some Commissioners were well aware of what was done. No one alerted the School Board that the site selected for the new school was contaminated.

 

When the old high school was buried in 1987 to avoid paying for properly and legally disposing of asbestos materials, some citizens and some Commissioners were well aware of what was done. No one alerted the School Board that the site selected for the new school was contaminated.
 
The School Board spent $1.7 million to clean up the asbestos buried years ago to save a few dollars. $479,000 of the cost came out of the school budget and the rest drove up the cost of the new school which will be paid back with interest over the next 25 years out of the school budget.
 
The Commissioners offered no financial assistance to correct this community problem. Some of them sat silently by and let $1.7 million of taxpayer dollars be wasted instead of warning the School Board so a different site for the new school could be chosen.

 

HARD CHOICES

When it comes to how our limited budget dollars will be spent, the School Board and the Superintendent always have hard choices to make.
 
A perfect example is what to do about the State’s 4% raise for teachers in the event the County Commission ultimately rejects our budget and once again gives us the same money as last year and preceding years.
The 4% raise for teachers will cost $552,728 in salaries, benefits and taxes. In the Facts About the 4% Raise article, it was explained that the State will only fund $241,868 (43.8%) of the cost and the remaining $310,860 (56.2%) comes out of our budget.
 
The $241,868 of State funding for teacher increases is already in the school budget presented to the Commission. That budget includes a 13.31% increase for teachers to bring them up to the current Tipton County salary levels.
 
As the Board stated in its resolution to the Commission, we are putting $532,766 toward the educational improvements we want to make. This is money that is now available due to eliminating some unneeded positions for next year, no more annual installments to repay federal funds misappropriated by Dr. Gray, savings from consolidating four schools into Oakland and Buckley-Carpenter, a $150,000 increase in sales tax for 2014-2015, and the State’s raise funding.
 
If the Commission funds the schools at the same fixed income (maintenance of effort) as last year, the $150,000 increase in sales tax will be removed from our budget. This will reduce our available savings from $532,766 down to $382,766. We’ll be short $169,962 to cover the 4% raise.
 
The academic enhancements we want to make at the high school will cost $506,303. After-school tutoring at all schools and summer school at all schools will cost $567,909. There will be no funds available to implement these much-needed programs for students.
 
What does the Board do in this situation? 
Do we cut three more positions and give teachers a 4% raise? 
Do we give teachers a 3% raise at a cost of $414,546 and make some cuts to come up with the extra $31,780 needed to do that? 
Do we give teachers a 2% raise at a cost of $276,364 and invest the remaining $106,402 of our available funds in some of the improvements for the high school?
 
A 2% raise will give teachers all of the $241,868 raise funding from the State plus $34,496 of local money, but people will accuse the Board of not giving the State’s 4% raise to teachers.
 
What would you do? What choices would you make for next year?

 

 

THE FACTS ABOUT THE 4% RAISE FOR TEACHERS

When asked by the County Commission on Tuesday night if there was any money in next year’s state funding for teacher raises, Superintendent James Teague responded that a 4% raise is included.


What the School Board wants to give our teachers next year is a 13.31% raise to bring them up to the current salary level of Tipton County’s teachers. This increase will cost $1,839,200 for salaries, benefits and taxes.

A 4% raise for teachers will cost $552,728 in salaries, benefits and taxes. But that is much more than the funding Fayette County Schools will receive from the State for the 4% raise.

Whenever the State gives teachers “a raise” and the Board agrees to match the State’s percentage increase, over half of the financial burden comes out of our budget from that year forward. Very seldom is even a small portion of that burden funded by the County Commission. Thus, most, if not all, has to come out of the same fixed amount the Commission gives the school system year after year.

Last year, the Board gave teachers a 1% raise with no help from the Commission.

For the 2012-13 school year, Governor Haslam provided extra funds for teachers. Since there was no guarantee that funding would continue every year forward, the governor’s contribution was paid out equally to all teachers as a one-time bonus.

HOW IT WORKS

State funding, called BEP (Basic Education Program with the emphasis on BASIC), uses a complicated formula with 45 components to calculate the staffing and other resources that qualify for state funding in a school district. Staffing requirements are based on student average daily membership for the previous year. The calculated staffing numbers fall below the actual staff positions in school districts throughout the state. No school system operates at the unrealistically low levels established by the State.

For next year the State has allocated 212 instructional positions to Fayette County Schools compared to the 282 positions in our budget (down from 320 positions in 2011-12). This means FCS will have to pay the entire cost of the 4% raise for the additional 70 teachers.

Of the total funding for the 212 allocated BEP positions, the State only pays 58.19% which leaves the remaining 41.81% to be paid by FCS.

Out of the $552,728 required for a 4% raise, FCS will have to pay $137,076 for the 70 teachers not funded by the State BEP and $173,784 for its 41.81% share of the 212 BEP funded teachers for a total of $310,860 (56.2%) out of its budget. The State will kick in $241,868 (43.8%).
 


EDUCATION AND BUDGET COMMITTEES REJECT SCHOOLS REQUEST FOR MORE FUNDS

OAKLAND AREA COUNTY COMMISSIONERS LEAD CHARGE AGAINST FAYETTE COUNTY SCHOOLS BUDGET

Oakland area County Commissioners Homer Bunker and Terry Leggett lead charge against Fayette County Schools budget. Both commissioners gave lengthy speeches opposing Fayette County Schools request for $2.4 million increase in funding from county. The Education Committee and Budget Committee of the County Commission voted unanimously to reject the school budget request for more funds, but to fund the schools at the same dollar amount as last year. Their exact vote was to fund schools at Maintenance of Effort, which is the minimum required by Tennessee law. Commissioner Myles Wilson (not representing the Oakland area) stated that teaching school is not rocket science. He added that all we need is average teachers in Fayette County.

The schools requested the extra funds to accomplish three things:

1. Increase teacher salaries to a competitive level

2. Provide after-school tutoring and summer school at all schools

3. Improve academic offerings at Fayette-Ware High School

Citizens, if you are in favor the schools budget and plans, you need to voice this to the County Commissioners. (via phone call, text and/or email)

HOW MUCH WILL A GOOD EDUCATION COST?

This week the Fayette County School Board took its responsibility to public education seriously and asked the County Commission to support our schools with a $2.4 million increase in funding primarily to bring our teachers’ salaries up to a respectable level.

Why Funds Are Needed
Most citizens and County Commissioners are unaware that our teachers are not only paid less than all surrounding school districts but are actually rock bottom in the entire state. In the 2013-2014 report on average salaries from the TN Dept of Education, Fayette County ranks at the very bottom out of 136 school districts for educator salaries with all licensed educators and instructional personnel dead last, classroom teachers fourth from the bottom, and principals second from the bottom.

The single most effective tool for delivering a good education to our county’s children is the teacher in the classroom. With the lowest salaries in the state, Fayette County Schools simply cannot compete in the marketplace with Shelby County, the new city school districts, or Tipton County. We cannot attract experienced, high performing teachers. And we cannot even keep teachers who come to us fresh out of school to get their training at our expense then move on to better paying jobs.

To be sure, we have good, dedicated teachers who do stay with Fayette County Schools at considerable financial sacrifice because they live here and/or prefer working in our school system. But teachers have families to support and bills to pay just like the rest of us. They have to invest their work efforts where they can get a reasonable economic return.

What is the Price Tag?
In County Mayor Taylor’s draft budget, he reported that the total assessed value of property in the county is $952,331,191 and that 1 cent in the property tax rate brings in $95,223 in revenue.

Based on the mayor’s figures, the $2,380,646 funding request from the School Board would require an increase of 25 cents in the property tax rate. In other words, a 15.6% increase. If your property tax for last year was $500, then you would pay an additional $78 this year.

Property Tax Analysis
Fayette County has not had a property tax increase in at least two decades. Although the rate has been adjusted periodically, this is done in order to bring in the same tax revenue when the tax base is reassessed and consequently rises or falls.

According to the 2014 property tax rates reported by the TN Division of Property Assessments, Fayette County has next to the lowest rate of all counties. Only Cumberland County, where Crossville is located, slides in under our $1.6054 rate at $1.4975. (Note: Gibson County has a rate of $0.9334 but also has special school district taxes throughout which put its effective tax rate over $3.)

The 2014 tax rates for us and neighboring counties are: Fayette $1.6054, Hardeman $2.5500. Haywood $2.3956, Tipton $2.4169, Shelby $4.3700. An increase of 25 cents for education will put our tax rate at $1.8554 - still significantly lower than all our neighbors.

In fact, it would take an additional 54 cents to bring our teacher salaries up to Shelby County levels. That would put our tax rate at $2.1454 and still leave us well below surrounding counties.

Ability to Pay
Other educational funding sources look at various statistics to determine a school district’s ability to pay its own way.

Federal funding takes median household income into consideration. As reported by the U.S. Census Bureau in its 2006-2010 American Community Survey, Fayette County has the third highest median household income in TN at $56,729. Only Williamson County at $87,832 and Wilson County at $60,678 surpass us. Our high median income means we qualify for less federal funding.

State funding through the Basic Education Program (BEP) uses an equalization formula to determine the state and local shares of the funding amount calculated under BEP. The equalization formula is driven primarily by property values and sales tax. The county’s rising property values and increasing sales tax revenue indicate Fayette County has the ability to pay a larger share of education costs and is entitled to less state funding.

What these indicators are telling our school system’s other funding sources is “Fayette County has the ability to pay for more of its education costs and does not need as much from outside sources.”

Of course, the willingness to pay is an entirely separate issue and the one we must deal with.

Bragging Rights
“No tax increase” is the proverbial campaign platform for County Commissioners and essentially Fayette County’s claim to fame.

No one wants to pay higher property taxes. NO ONE. Not the School Board, not parents, and certainly not County Commissioners. And we most definitely do not want to get on a path toward ever-increasing taxes every year for no good reason.

But, when we look realistically at how Fayette County measures up, we really have nothing to brag about. Having the next lowest property tax rate in the state coupled with the lowest paid teachers in the state is an embarrassment, not something to be proud of. It speaks volumes about the value we place on our children, on nurturing a well-educated citizenry, on providing a safe wholesome community.

In April Mayor Taylor advised the County Commission that a tax increase may be necessary to fund more jailers and deputies. If we invested more in education, we would create more productive citizens and fewer prospective inmates who will keep costing us both as taxpayers and as victims of crimes. It makes much better sense to invest in positive outcomes.

Economic Growth
What does our bottom-of-the-barrel standing say to businesses who are looking for a solid community in which to locate? For years we have been told that we do not have a trained work force. We never will unless we take steps to make that happen.

Businesses also want good public schools for the children of their employees. Rock bottom teacher salaries say Fayette County has no interest in meeting that requirement.

Investing in our school system will be a big step toward putting our county on the map for attracting businesses and creating economic opportunities for all our citizens.

Think Long and Hard
We taxpayers need to think long and hard about this. Do we want Fayette County to continue coming in last in the state or can we spare a few dollars to invest in a brighter future?

For those of us who think it’s time to step up and support education, we need to speak loud and clear to our County Commissioners so they know where we stand.

SCHOOL BOARD STANDS UP FOR TEACHERS AND STUDENTS IN 2015-2016 BUDGET


The Fayette County School Board is asking the County Commission to step up and support public education with $2.4 million in additional funding.

These new dollars will bring our teacher salaries up from the absolute lowest in Tennessee to the level of Tipton County teachers as well as restore after-school tutoring and summer school programs at all schools. In addition, the new funding will provide educational enhancements at Fayette-Ware High School with three more foreign language teachers for a full four-year program, an additional ACT teacher, a specially trained teacher to work with gifted students, fully functional science labs, and 10 technology labs.

Since September 2012 the School Board has worked very hard with the school administration to reduce costs and staffing where appropriate and to optimize operations. All of this has been done on a fixed income from the County Commission. With the fiscal house now in good working order, it is time to invest in teachers and educational programs if Fayette County's children are to be given the quality education they deserve and that prospective businesses expect to find in communities they consider moving to.

Please review the resolution that the Board has presented to the County Commission with the budget request and STAND UP with the Board for our teachers and students by contacting your Commissioners. It is now up to parents and citizens to make this happen.