Knox County Schools funding shortfall leads to questions about p

Knox County Schools funding shortfall leads to questions about property tax increase

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Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said the problem lies at the state level. Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said the problem lies at the state level.
“We're seeing too many people who are good teachers leaving Knox County," Northwest Middle School librarian Kim Waller said. “We're seeing too many people who are good teachers leaving Knox County," Northwest Middle School librarian Kim Waller said.
By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County commissioners and school board members have been discussing the county budget and the decreased expected funding for the school district. That discussion has sparked the question of whether or not Knox County should implement a property tax increase.

Previous story: Commissioners and school board members discuss Knox County budget

During Monday’s County Commission public hearing and Tuesday’s joint education committee meeting, several educators and elected leaders suggested that a property tax increase may be needed to fund the school district, especially since the expected BEP funding amount dropped almost $3 million.

"A property tax increase is more fair across the board over a sales tax increase," Knox County Commissioner Amy Broyles said. "The bottom line is the only way to be able to give teachers' raises is to have a tax increase."

“We're seeing too many people who are good teachers leaving Knox County," Northwest Middle School librarian Kim Waller said.

Waller said a property tax increase could help with raising teacher pay, making the county more competitive with neighboring districts.

Waller said she believes it’s a decision that should be left up to voters.

“At some point you have to ask the community or the community has to decide is their priority having the best schools in the state and getting the best teachers and keeping those teachers here?" Waller said.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett said the problem lies at the state level.

Burchett’s office said when it comes to the dollar amount of state funding for schools, Knox County ranks near the bottom for per pupil spending at 134 out of around 1366 districts.

But when it comes to locally generated dollars, Knox County ranks 11 out of 136 districts for per pupil spending.

“Where the anger and the frustration needs to be directed is at Nashville because they set up a system to where we pay in and we fund all the surrounding counties,” Burchett said. “ It ought to just stay home."

Other local counties have passed a property tax or sales increase to fund local departments including education:
  • Blount County  – 2014 – half cent sales tax increase referendum passed with half going to schools
  • Maryville – 2013 – half cent sales tax increase referendum passed with half going to schools
  • Alcoa – 2012 – half cent sales tax increase referendum passed with half going to schools
  • Monroe County – 2011 – 37 cent property tax increase going to school renovations & other items
  • Loudon County – 2011 – 20 cent property tax increase with some going to new schools
  • Anderson County – 2011 – 16.2 cent property tax increase going to schools, jail expansion and industrial development
  • Sevier County – 2009 – quarter cent sales tax increase with some going to schools
  • Oak Ridge – 2008 – 13 cent property tax increase with some going to schools
Knox County Finance Director Chris Caldwell said in Knox County, a roughly seven to eight cent property tax increase would be needed to fully fund the schools’ budget request if all the money went to schools.

“You're not hearing the people out there clamoring for a tax increase I can assure you," Burchett said.

A property tax increase can go to voters but Burchett’s office said that could hurt the county’s bond rating.

County Commission could vote on a property tax increase but the mayor has the power to veto the vote.

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