UPDATE: Those who attended Thursday evening's Hamilton County school board meeting signaled their approval of the proposed budget in the end with a standing ovation.

Members voted 7-2 in favor of asking the county commission for $34-million more than last year.

"This is why I wanted to serve on the board, to make a difference," District 2's Kathy Lennon said.

Afterwards, she told Channel 3, many needs could be addressed if their request is approved.

"From technology to special-education; our teachers are at the bottom of the pay scale. The list goes on and on," Lennon said.

Some issues covered by the proposal, like eliminating education fees for all, brought together members who often butt heads. 

"You know, every now and then there's going to be a field trip. Every now and then there's going to be performing arts, etc… But the general education fees we're trying to eliminate, and do some standardization across the system," explained Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson.

District 1 member Rhonda Thurman ended up casting one of the two votes against the $443-million budget request joining Dr. Steve Highlander from District 9 who said he did so reluctantly, but feared the unintended consequences of a tax increase.

"I've had quite a few seniors in my district who called me," Highlander said. "And they were very concerned that more on the taxes will put them into choosing between medicine and groceries or paying the tax bill."

The Hamilton County Commission will have the final say. Should they reject the request or approve a lesser amount, the board would have to start cutting.

District 8's Tucker McClendon says he does not want to put the cart before the horse.

"You know, I think it's premature to talk about what we would cut and what we wouldn't cut. I think everything in his budget is pivotal for the education of our students," McClendon said. "Right now, I think we need to do our job and help the county commission realize why we're asking for this investment."

Dr. Johnson will present the budget to the county commission on Tuesday morning.

Stay with the WRCB app for updates to this story.


PREVIOUS UPDATE: The Hamilton County school board has voted to approve the proposed budget for the 2019-2020 school year.

The board voted 7-2 in favor of the budget. Board members Rhonda Thurman and Steve Highlander voted against the budget.

The budget includes an additional $34-million, which Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson said is part of his five-year strategic plan.

The Hamilton County Commission must approve the budget.

Dr. Johnson is scheduled to present the budget to the commission on Tuesday.

Stay with the WRCB app for updates to this story.


ORIGINAL STORY: Hamilton County School Board members will vote on their new budget proposal Thursday.

If approved by the county commission, a new budget of an additional $34 million will be put in place. 

Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson said it's part of his five-year strategic plan.

"We feel that this investment is necessary," Johnson said. 

Dr. Johnson said the additional funding would go toward more positions, a 5% increase in teacher salaries, and the option to eliminate general education fees for students.

"It's approximately $1.8 million that would go back directly into schools to eliminate general education fees," Johnson said. "We have proposed one standardized fee for innovation, arts, and labs of approximately $20 and again, general education fees would be eliminated."

It's a budget increase school board member Rhonda Thurman said she can't support.

She said $34 million would be too much to ask for considering the school board will receive an estimated $9 million from growth funds this year. 

But school board member Joe Smith disagrees. 

"There's just so many needs and we're behind," Smith said. 

He said he supports the budget increase for additional funding to fix some of the school system's aging facilities. 

"We have not had new operations money since 2005, 2005 since the Hamilton County Department of Education had new operations money," Smith said. 

Hamilton County School Board members will vote on the budget proposal Thursday night. 

If the board approves the budget proposal, Dr. Johnson will have to present the budget to the county commission Tuesday.

If this 49 cent property tax increase passed, the average county homeowner would pay an additional $200 in property taxes.