Hamilton County school board to allocate additional $5.7 million from unexpected revenue

Hamilton County Schools superintendent Bryan Johnson speaks during a school board meeting Thursday, July 11, 2019, at the Hamilton County Department of Education in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Hamilton County Schools superintendent Bryan Johnson speaks during a school board meeting Thursday, July 11, 2019, at the Hamilton County Department of Education in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Hamilton County Schools employees will see a $555 bonus on top of an already-promised $1,500 bonus thanks to additional revenue the district received but hadn't accounted for during the 2018-19 fiscal year.

The district came in almost $11 million under budget for the 2019 fiscal year and also collected $8.9 million more in revenue - mostly thanks to local taxes - according to Chief Business Officer Brent Goldberg.

Though it spent about $17.9 million from its fund balance on one-time capital and technology expenditures this year, the additional revenue and savings allow the district to allocate $5.7 million toward teacher bonuses, digital fabrication labs and STEM equipment and a football stadium for Sale Creek Middle/High School.

For Superintendent Bryan Johnson and many Hamilton County employees, the $555 bonus holds special significance. The district earned Level 5 TVAAS scores in five categories - the highest possible score of student growth for achievement during the last academic year.

"I think you can't repay what teachers do," Johnson said. "I think about the impact that teachers have in our community. ... When you look at businesses, when there's a good year, you share those profits with those who did the work."


— Monday, Sept. 16 at 5 p.m.: Agenda session— Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 5 p.m.: State Partnership Network public meeting— Thursday, Sept. 19 at 4:30 p.m.: Work session with MGT Consulting Group— Thursday, Sept. 19 at 5 p.m.: Executive session with board attorney>— Thursday, Sept. 19 at 5:30 p.m.: Regular monthly school board meeting

Hamilton County teachers were hoping for a 5% raise in the FY 2020 budget, but when the Hamilton County Commission shot down the district's original proposed budget that included a 34-cent tax rate increase, district leaders went back to the drawing board.

Instead of a salary increase, the district's collaborative conferencing team eventually agreed on a plan that will give teachers a one-time bonus of $1,500 in November this year.

"We tried to get them 5% and we couldn't, so I think anything that we can give, although it will be one time, will go a long way for them and hopefully shows that we appreciate them and everything they do," District 8 board member Tucker McClendon said. "It shows this administration's commitment to being fiscally responsible that we came in $11 million under budget and were able to do some great one-time things."

Since Goldberg has taken over the budgeting process for the district after the retirement of longtime Assistant Superintendent of Finance Christie Jordan, the district has seen a tighter budgeting process.

Throughout this year's budget process, Goldberg noted that the district has come in under budget for many years and has also low-balled expected revenues.

Johnson and Goldberg both alluded to a tighter budgeting process for FY 2020 at Monday's school board meeting.

"Our revenue for fiscal year '20 will not be a windfall like it has been in the past because we've adjusted our revenue budgeting," Goldberg said.

Board member Rhonda Thurman, of District 1, had Goldberg repeat it when he said Sale Creek would finally get a football stadium. Thurman represents Sale Creek and has advocated for a place for the Panthers to play for years.

The proposed fund allocation would transfer $2.5 million to capital funds for the stadium, $2.5 million to employee salary bonuses and the remaining $750,000 to digital fabrication labs and STEM equipment.

The district's proposed budget included a significant expansion of its Volkswagen eLabs program, but those labs were also among cuts in order to send a balanced budget back to the county commission.

Though Goldberg skirted around an announcement Monday, multiple district officials have hinted at the announcement of more such digital fabrication labs slated for an event this Wednesday.

The budget recommendations still must be approved by the board and will be up for a vote Thursday during its regularly scheduled monthly meeting.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at mmangrum@timesfreepress.com or 423-757- 6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.