Over the past two months, Superintendent Rick Smith has hosted 11 community meetings to share his vision to make Hamilton County the “best school system in the South”. His vision incorporates 4 major components:
- Every low-income family having access to high-quality Pre-K
- All students having access to a great public school, with highly effective teachers and curriculum that equips them for success in the 21st century
- Every high school student graduating with the preparation and supports to complete postsecondary programs
- Clear pathways to high-demand career tracks for students and adults, created in partnership with growing local and international employers throughout the region.
He hopes to accomplish these four goals by aligning existing and new funding for more high-quality Pre-K, raising the bar for student preparation and success, insuring every high school graduate can attend community college free of tuition and fees, and guaranteeing any adult the ability to pursue a free credential from Chattanooga’s College of applied Technology.
To fund his vision, Rick Smith is requesting $34 million for the SY 2015-16 budget which includes about $27 million in enhancements and $6.5 million in unavoidable additions. However, over half of the funding for requested enhancements will go towards putting art and foreign language teachers in every elementary school, providing educational technology and support for teachers and students, and a 5% salary/benefits increase for all HCDE staff and teachers. The unavoidable additions include funding for accountability/testing, information services, transportation costs, storm water fees and staffing positions due to increased enrollment. One of the ways the Superintendent has proposed to fund the $34 million addition to the HCDE budget is to increase property taxes by 40-cents costing homeowners of a $150,000 home an additional $150 in annual taxes.
The School Board voted to approve the proposed budget during the April School Board meeting with a 7-2 vote. Hixson school board member Greg Martin and Soddy-Daisy member Rhonda Thurman both opposed the proposal. Superintendent Rick Smith is scheduled to present the HCDE Budget to the County Commission on May 20 at 3pm. County Mayor Jim Coppinger will have to decide if he will include the enhanced school budget into his proposed County Budget; Coppinger has made no comment about what he plans to include into his proposed County Budget. Mayor Coppinger will present his proposed budget to commissioners at a June 2 workshop and will make his formal budget presentation to the County Commission on June 3rd during the regularly scheduled County Commission Meeting.