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McClure proposal would grant raises, reduce school fund balance

By David Bodenheimer
The Dispatch

Published: Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 3:30 p.m.


In an effort to give salary increases to county employees next year, Davidson County Commissioner Fred McClure pitched a proposal to his colleagues Thursday morning to appropriate money from Davidson County Schools’ fund balance.

McClure’s proposal would pull approximately $800,000 from the system’s fund balance to supply either a two percent raise for county employees or a one-time stimulus of $720 per employee. The county has 869 employees who would benefit from a raise, but commissioners themselves would be exempt from the pay increase if approved.

The county school system’s fund balance is around $9 million, but it still owes the county roughly $1.5 million for construction of the new middle school scheduled to open next year in northern Davidson County. If approved, McClure said he would be willing to cut the payback from the school system to the county down to $1 million.

Commissioners lightly discussed salary increases during a budget workshop in February. Specifics were not debated, and the general consensus from the board was that such increases were still not practical. County employees have gone two years without a raise.

McClure said the county needs to strongly consider the raise to boost employee morale and keep its workforce.

“Our employees are our most valuable asset,” he said. “It should be one of the responsibilities of this board to attract and retain the best employees we can for the county.”

State statutes don’t require school systems to maintain a fund balance, a point McClure was quick to point out

“They don’t have any way to get a fund balance,” McClure said of the school system. “How they do accumulate money … we give it to them. So that’s money we’ve been giving them over a period of time they’ve been managing to squirrel away, for lack of a better term.”

The total amount in the county’s proposed budget for 2011-12 for education is $35.7 million, which is $75,609 less than last year. The budget does show an increase of per pupil spending from $1,036 to $1,040 despite dwindling average daily membership rates in all three of the county’s school systems. While the proposed budget technically shows a cut, the county applied $716,769 to the debt service for the new middle school construction, essentially balancing education funding levels from last year though applying it outside of the classroom.

Dr. Fred Mock, superintendent of Davidson County Schools, said he was not aware of McClure’s proposal when contacted after the meeting. Mock said the system has worked diligently over the past several years to bank funds to offset budget cuts.

“For the last three years, we’ve been trying to save money for residuals so we can actually help keep our employees with jobs. Most school systems in this state have tried to save and stretch our resources over what we’re being told will be another two or three years” of tight budgets, Mock said. “That’s been a management plan of ours.”

Mock said school system financial advisors say the system needs to hold at least $4 million in fund balance to maintain cash flow.

Commissioners deferred any discussion after McClure’s recommendation, choosing to address the matter at its next meeting June 14, when commissioners could also approve the budget. The board will need a simple majority vote to carry McClure’s proposal.

However, it does appear board chairman Sam Watford is not prepared to support McClure. After the meeting, Watford said he is leery of the salary increases mainly because the county is still not generating the revenue necessary to warrant such raises.

“I just can’t see it right now,” he said. “That’s my personal opinion. It may not be popular, but that’s how I feel.”

David Bodenheimer can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 227, or at david.bodenheimer@the-dispatch.com.

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