The Sumner County School Board took a step toward financial balance Tuesday when it approved a lower staff pay raise than had been originally planned.
The board approved a 2.5 percent raise for non-certified employees instead of 3 percent. And with that smaller pay raise, the district now has to cut $935,000 instead of $1.175 million.
"This is not what the school board wants. This is not what I was elected to do," said board member Beth Cox.
School board members reluctantly made deep cuts they know will hurt as they trimmed another $1.1 million from their budget.
"I've been here 24 years, and this is the most heart-breaking year I've ever had in this system," said board member Will Duncan.
The board also cut a new GPS system for buses and cut the distance learning program.
Personnel cuts will likely target vacant positions first, then non-teaching positions, then those who teach elective subjects in high school and middle school. After that, if more cuts are needed, core academic subjects are next.
School principals will soon meet to begin the painful process.
School leaders have been working for weeks to trim what they can from the budget, which came back from county commissioners far short of the more than $7 million school leaders had originally sought.
The impasse between the two bodies kept schools closed for eight days at the beginning of the school year.
Previously, the board also agreed to eliminate a request for eight new guidance counselors for high schools and voted to eliminate $400,000 they now contribute to an adult education program.
But in its action Tuesday, the district kept a form of the pay increase for teachers, which would be their first raise in five years.
In a meeting Monday, commissioners voted to place a wheel tax on the county's November ballot. The wheel tax would raise rates by $25 per vehicle effective Dec. 1, and the funds would benefit education in the county.
The wheel tax increase is estimated to raise about $3 million a year for education.
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