By MARIAN GALBRAITH
In addition to the need for a new, $1 million roof at Tullahoma High School discussed during Monday’s budget work session between the Tullahoma School Board and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, schools director Dan Lawson also requested $595,000 to help fund a salary increase for all school personnel for the upcoming budget year.
“Our budget is 84 to 85 percent personnel costs, so when the governor wants a 2.5 percent increase for all teachers and state employees,” Lawson said, “and our practice is to include all teachers as well as non-certified employees, it comes to $783,000.”
Lawson explained that Basic Education Program (BEP) funds would only cover $188,000 of that amount, leaving $595,000 for the schools to fund themselves.
With little idea where these funds would come from, officials asked how much was being charged for tuition from out-of-area students.
According to Lawson, tuition is $300 per year for grades kindergarten through five, $600 for grades six to eight, and $900 for grades nine through 12. He added that half of all Tullahoma students are on the free and reduced lunch program.
He also added that 550 was the “high-water mark,” in terms of the number of students paying tuition, while 350 was the low.
Alderman Jimmy Blanks responded that while the city has “big debt” from the construction of East Lincoln Elementary and Wilkins Stadium, Tullahoma is already “one of the ten highest-taxed cities in the state.”
Alderman Mike Stanton responded by pointing out the need for a state income tax.
“We get 80 percent of our revenues in Tennessee from sales tax and only 7 percent from income tax,” Stanton said, “while our neighbors in North Carolina get about 38 percent of their revenues from income tax and Alabama gets 29 percent from income tax.
“I just hope we can elect state legislators who have the courage and foresight to pass an income tax.”
While Mayor Curlee responded, “that won’t be solved here,” and others on the board seemed to oppose Stanton’s comments, school board chairman Pat Welsh added a statistic to Stanton’s comments.
“North Carolina has the highest taxes of all the southern states, and also the highest income,” Welsh said, “so taxing more does not have a reverse effect on income, at least in that state.”
Stanton added after the meeting that 42 states now have an income tax, while Tennessee is one of only eight that do not.
Finance Director Sue Wilson and Administrator Jody Baltz distributed a graph of the city’s debt service schedule, explaining that there could be some savings from refinancing some of the city’s debt, but only roughly $70,000 per year to begin with.
The first reading of the 2012-2013 budget is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 5.