What is in JMCSS’ official budget proposal?

Editor’s note: The County Commission’s budget committee rejected this budget and sent it back to the school board on Wednesday, June 7, because of a few missing items in the budget. This will be updated next week after the district leadership and board revise it and resend to the committee.

Jackson-Madison County Schools Superintendent Marlon King nearly got everything he asked for in his initial budget proposal approved by the school board.

But the board didn’t reject anything he asked for.

He removed one item he thought would be helpful in recruiting and retaining teachers from the proposal because the Madison County Commission’s budget committee and other commissioners said they wouldn’t be able to give more than maintenance of effort (MOE) before King and the committee negotiated $1.2 for education capital fund for teachers’ laptops.

“The one thing I wanted to be able to do that we couldn’t was paying for 80% of family insurance plans and 90% of single insurance plans for employees,” King told the Board on Monday. “We were able to fund everything else that I listed in the proposal with the budget committee saying they could put $1.2 million in education capital.

“So we’re able to fund everything else that I originally proposed, and we’ll go back and see if we can fund that insurance piece next year. We’ll see if we can figure that out.”

One thing that helped JMCSS’ funding efforts was changes in the formula for state funding for the district.

Board member Jason Compton clarified during the meeting with King that the formula changes from TISA (Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement) equals an additional $13 million in state funding for the district.

“We’re able to use that money to fund positions that we originally initiated with ESSER funding,” King said to Compton.

This answered a question voiced by county commissioners in recent weeks of how King would fund an estimated 42 positions created by ESSER funds in the past three years – which is funds from the federal government to help school districts combat learning loss suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The We Care Initiative is also funded, which means district employees will be able to choose three items off a supplied list from the district that will aid in personal care. They’ll be reimbursed up to $200 for three of these efforts – which could include gym memberships, massages, spa treatments – and if three efforts are completed, they are given an additional bonus of $200. The initiative is covered this year with ESSER funds in the final year JMCSS can use the third wave of those funds.

The raise of the starting salary for teachers to $46,000 per year  as well as longevity pay that includes scheduled raises will also be funded by TISA funding and the County’s MOE ($48,035,000).

Most classified support staff positions will get a raise of $3 per hour.

As the district anticipates a 5.1% increase in insurance premiums for its employees, King said they plan to absorb those costs as well.

“It’s important to remember that this budget process is a collaboration between the district and the county budget committee as they had a series of meetings to figure out what the County is comfortable with funding and what the district could fund,” said JMCSS communications director Greg Hammond. “There were things he was resolute in like the We Care Initiative that’s a part of IEP squared, which is the plan to take care of our employees.

“We’re doing things there that are not happening in any of our neighboring school districts.”

The raise in starting salary is a nearly $4,000-per-year jump, which should move the district even higher in the state rankings of starting salary, which JMCSS has already moved from 108 to 60 in the state in the past three years.

“We know funding is coming from the state to raise everyone’s starting salary, but JMCSS isn’t waiting for that, we’re moving ahead now with that,” Hammond said.

The County’s budget committee agreed to recommend funding $1.2 million in education capital for new laptops for all teachers.

King also mentioned after the Board approved budget amendments to clean up some payroll expenses from changes made in September that the district is set to receive nearly $4 million in state and federal reimbursements. That plus coming in under budget for the current fiscal year should allow them to build the fund balance for the district back to “somewhere in the mid-20s,” meaning about halfway between $20 million and $30 million.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news