The Hamilton County School Board's budget battle intensifies. The Board of Education rejected the budget proposed by Interim Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly for the upcoming school year. He was asking for an additional $33.5 million dollars.
School board members all agree more funding is absolutely necessary for Hamilton County Schools. They voted in favor of Dr. Kelly providing them with a balanced budget and a list of the district's additional needs.
“Anybody paying attention knows what position the board is in and the decision this board has to make,” said District 3 school board member Joe Smith.
But school board member Joe Smith said it's time. He wants county commissioners to raise taxes. “The county commission needs to go ahead and bite the bullet and commit to a property tax increase. In my opinion.”
Hamilton County hasn't raised taxes for schools in 12 years. Smith said commissioners don't plan to raise taxes, but he said they understand the need.
“They are needs, not wants. They are not wishes, they are needs, dire needs. Our teachers need pay increases. Everything we are asking for we all know we need it and I believe county commission believes we need it,” said District 5 school board member Karitsa Jones.
It is the board's responsibility to tell the county where the needs are and where new money will be spent. They voted for Dr. Kelly to come up with a new budget that doesn’t count on money they don’t have. But some school members believe Kelly’s original $396.5 million budget is necessary.
“I truly thought we were spending too much at Central Office but we are not. We are not. Everything that is in this budget is needed,” said District 2 school board member Kathy Lennon.
Now Dr. Kelly has to go back to the drawing board and make cuts to the school board's wish list to present to county commissioners.
“We need to do and express what is best for this county and best for our children. It is our obligation to take a budget to them and ask them to approve it,” said District 8 school board member David Testerman.
The school board will meet again next Thursday where Dr. Kelly is expected to present his balanced budget to the board. They are expected to then vote.
The county commissions first budget meeting is May 9th.