Christmas has come early for employees of Knox County Public Schools.
During the regular August meeting, the Knox County Board of Education unanimously approved a three percent pay raise for every full time employee in the district — including teachers, custodians, cooks, principals and bus drivers. In order to fund the pay increase, however, the board had a difficult decision to make.
During the meeting, the Knox County Board of Education was required to set the district’s 2017-18 real estate, personal property and aircraft tax rates.
“I’m going to ask the board to consider that we do the four percent increase,” said Superintendent Kelly Sprinkles. “What that will do is provide additional funding to our district… We’ve really worked our budget very hard, but in order to be able to provide a pay raise that keeps us competitive with other districts, it would require the support of the board to do the four percent.”
The increase would raise Knox County’s rate from 50.9 cents to 53.2 cents for every 100,000 dollars of assessed property value. Some board members were not completely on board with the tax increase.
“My concern is that last year we approved a $35 tax requirement for he fire departments,” said board member Jimmy Hendrickson, “and here we are getting ready to take the four percent tax. Its just tax, tax, tax.”
“It’s a $23 increase for every $100,000 property value,” countered board member Gordon Hinkle. “I don’t like taxes just like anybody else, but we’re going to have to stay competitive. Have we cut? Yes we have cut. We’ve cut 18 positions from last year to this year. So yeah, we have tightened the belt.”
Hinkle compared Knox County’s potential 53.2 with surrounding counties. Hinkle announced that Corbin Independent has a rate of 64.1. Clay County is currently at 61.4 and has yet to set this year’s rates, and Bell County is 61.0.
“We are now a distinguished school district. Teacher satisfaction is the highest its ever been in this district. When you’ve got good, satisfied, dedicated employees, you tend to get better results,” said Superintendent Sprinkles. “I’m really considering this as an investment. I know, I pay taxes like everyone else, but I consider this an investment in our people, and our people is what’s making Knox County Schools move in a good direction.”
The board ultimately approved the increase with a 3-2 vote, Peggy Gray and Jimmy Hendrickson voted against the raise.
“It’s a competitive world out there,” said Hinkle. “Everybody in this county wants their kid to get the best education that’s humanly possible. And the only way you’re going to do that is to attract the best and brightest teachers. I don’t know any other way to put it.”