Hamilton County Board of Education approves fiscal budget
Board chair expresses concerns over infrastructure damage in county schools
HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — The Hamilton Board of Education met tonight to approve its next fiscal budget, but a different conversation tonight that took over the meeting.
It’s never easy to ask for money, but this is exactly what Chairman Tucker McClendon proposed in tonight’s meeting.
To him, Hamilton County’s schools are falling apart, but he believes the County Commission may be able to help the physical future of Hamilton schools.
In an 8-to-1 vote, the new fiscal year budget was passed by the Hamilton County Board of Education.
District 6 Board Member Jenny Hill says it includes staff raises, as well as free health clinics and generic drugs being available at cost for employees without full insurance.
“That to me is something that’s potentially life-changing for an employee that’s making an hourly wage of 15 dollars an hour or less,” Hill said.
McClendon was the only board member to vote against the budget.
His main concern was the infrastructure in Hamilton County schools, saying they face “one billion dollars of deferred maintenance.”
He called the current situation a “crisis.”
“At some point, we as a district, we as a school board, future school boards, have to be good stewards of our buildings,” McClendon said. “We haven’t been for two decades, three decades, four decades, five decades. Some of the buildings haven’t seen more than a million dollars put in them since probably 1960.”
McClendon motioned to add an additional, annual ask of 10 million dollars from the county government to the board’s maintenance budget.
This led to passionate conversations among several members of the board.
“We continue to hire, we continue to do what we want and then go back and say, ‘We don’t have money,'” said Rhonda Thurman of District 1. “There’s a lot of opportunities we’ve had to put money into our capital maintenance and we’ve chosen to do other things with it.”
“This board has approved somewhere between 35-and-50-million dollars to go towards deferred maintenance,” said Joe Wingate of District 7. “So the narrative that this school board has ignored that is not true narrative.”
“You ask for 10, they might give us five, they might give us three, they might give us 10, they might give us nothing,” said Karitsa Jones of District 5. “But we have to ask. The children of Hamilton County deserve for us to ask.”
Ultimately, this motion was tabled during Monday’s meeting.
Board Member Rhonda Thurman did note, however, that these maintenance issues do need to be addressed.
When asked, she said this issue is one that the board “absolutely” wants to see addressed, it’s just a matter of money.