Average teacher salaries in 2007 in three North Georgia counties bordering Tennessee were slightly higher than average classroom salaries in Hamilton County and substantially higher than counties in Southeast Tennessee. Overall, Georgia’s average teacher salary was higher than Tennessee’s.
Chickamauga, Ga. $50,708
Dade County, Ga. $49,850
Catoosa County, Ga. $49,774
Athens, Tenn. $46,413
Walker County, Ga. $46,139
Hamilton County, Tenn. $44,184
Cleveland City, Tenn. $43,499
McMinn County, Tenn. $43,346
Bradley County, Tenn. $42,613
Meigs County, Tenn. $42,523
Etowah, Tenn. $42,346
Polk County, Tenn. $42,060
Dayton, Tenn. $40,366
Rhea County, Tenn. $39,658
Marion County, Tenn. $39,376
Sequatchie County, Tenn. $39,192
Richard City, Tenn. $39,158
Grundy County, Tenn. $39,099
Bledsoe County, Tenn. $38,604
Spending on students
Per-pupil spending varies widely across Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. The figures are based on average daily membership or attendance and include local money, state and federal funds, with some exceptions, such as money raised by individual school organizations.
Annual per-student spending
Hamilton County, Tenn. $8,668
Catoosa County, Ga. $8,292
Walker County, Ga. $8,252
Athens, Tenn. $8,152
Cleveland City, Tenn. $8,132
Grundy County, Tenn. $8,052
Bledsoe County, Tenn. $7,577
Dade County, Ga. $7,561
Etowah, Tenn. $7,486
Meigs County, Tenn. $7,201
Polk County, Tenn. $7,177
Rhea County, Tenn. $7,035
Marion County, Tenn. $6,991
Richard City, Tenn. $6,928
McMinn County, Tenn. $6,847
Dayton, Tenn. $6,796
Sequatchie County, Tenn. $6,527
Bradley County, Tenn. $6,390
Chickamauga, Ga. $6,367
Hamilton County Schools administrators faced a difficult budget year, but overcame a nearly $10 million deficit before passing a balanced 2008-2009 budget in April.
Just when Board of Education members and administrators breathed a collective sigh of relief, they received news from Nashville that Gov. Phil Bredesen could not give Hamilton, or other Tennessee counties, much new Basic Education Plan state funding.
The state’s revenue collections fell far short of projections, forcing a cut of about $2.6 million from the school district’s proposed $298 million general operating budget.
School system Chief Financial Officer Tommy Kranz said he now will look again at projected revenues to see if the district has more money coming in through sales and property taxes than originally planned to make up the difference. If there is no extra revenue, he will have to find more reductions in an already tight fiscal plan, he said. “From a percentage standpoint it’s minor, but any time you make a cut, you’re affecting something,” he said.
To make up the initial $11 million shortfall, administrators eliminated 15 central office positions and 83 from schools, for a total of 98 positions and a savings of $4.9 million.
School board Chairman Kenny Smith credited Mr. Kranz for doing an “outstanding job” under difficult circumstances.
“I hated to see any positions cut, and I think everybody on the board felt that way, but we did what we had to do,” he said. “I think we came out with the best budget we possibly could.”
The approved budget also included several changes to employees’ health benefits, including taking the prescription drug plan from a two-tiered to a threetiered system.
During summer negotiations to update the teachers’ contract, members of the Hamilton County Education Association argued that any change to benefits had to be discussed with the union first. School system administrators disagreed, so the issue will head to third-party arbitration sometime this school year.
“We’ve had 30 years of history bargaining insurance benefits. Salary and fringe benefits are mandatory subjects of bargaining by law,” said HCEA President Sharon Vandagriff.
To save another $150,000, central office administrators will have a salary freeze, despite a 2 percent recommended increase for other system employees.
When the school board approved the budget in April, board member Joe Conner recommended a $65,000 savings by deleting end-of-course exams not required by the state in seven high school classes: Algebra II, geography, geometry, advanced math, pre-calculus, English 11 and English 12. Mr. Conner is not running for reelection.
With tougher curriculum and graduation requirements coming to Tennessee in 2009, school administrators had budgeted an additional $557,381 to help teachers learn the standards, but the school board deleted that item, as well.
The board also reduced the number of new model classrooms for elementary schools from six to two and deleted a $409,350 emergency fund for No Child Left Behind requirements that may surface next fall.
E-mail Kelli Gauthier at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...