Hamilton County Commissioners voted down the school budget Wednesday morning by a vote of 5-4, fending off a proposed 34 cent property tax increase.

Commissioners Randy Fairbanks, Greg Martin, Sabrena Smedley, Tim Boyd and Chester Bankston voted against the tax increase.  

Commissioners Chip Baker, Katherlyn Geter, Warren Mackey and David Sharpe voted in favor of th tax increase.

School officials have to bring back a balanced budget before August 30th.

Concerned Hamilton County residents packed the commission chambers to hear how leaders will vote on the school budget.

It was another lengthy discussion with no shortage of strong opinions.

“I'm kind of disappointed. I think that our county commission made a decision that will impact me as an educator. More importantly, it will impact our students,” said Ashley Cox.

“Vote this budget down because of the large permanent tax burden it will create,” said Craig McGarvey. “It will not meet the immediate needs of failing students.”

Howard School teacher Ashley Cox says her students face challenges at home, and the extra funds would provide additional help in her efforts to boost their education.

“Kids come into the classroom, and they are not prepared to learn because they are dealing with social issues,” said Cox. “They're dealing with family issues. They're dealing with issues of poverty and mental health. They can't be prepared to learn the English that I need to teach.”

Retired educator Craig McGarvey says student behavior is definitely an issue, but schools shouldn't always have to take the lead in solving social and emotional problems.

“We need to remove disruptive students from their classrooms,” said McGarvey. “They need to be taught differently.”

After coming out on the short end of the 5-4 budget vote, school board members will have to go back to the drawing board and make tough choices on potential program cuts.

Most commissioners say they are unwilling to add to residents' tax bills.

This will leave teachers like Cox waiting and wondering, but still committed to kids.

“I'm there every day for our students,” Cox said. “I think as an educator we will continue to do the work that we have always done.”

Commissioners and school board members must work together to create a balanced budget before the end of August, with some tough choices, and potential cuts ahead.