Loudon County Board of Education will vote Thursday on a cost-of-living raise for teachers.

Loudon County Director of Schools Michael Garren plans to recommend a 2% increase retroactive to July 1, which will cost $525,000.

“I think it’s of utmost importance,” Garren said. “Teachers are working harder than they’ve ever worked. They’re working longer hours, they’re balancing more instructional techniques, they’re having to do virtual and in-person (teaching). They’re having to do temp checks. There’s extra hours involved, and to not be able to give them a cost-of-living raise on top of extra duties is hard. So I’m very pleased that the board is willing and wanting to provide them with a raise.”

The decision comes after Loudon County Commission agreed Sept. 8 to give a 2.5% raise, retroactive to July 1, to county employees.

County Commissioner Bill Satterfield asked during the meeting for teachers to get a raise as well, which spurred discussion at how much the increase would cost at a Sept. 21 county budget committee meeting. Commissioners learned of unaudited numbers showing better revenues than initially thought for the county and BOE, and ultimately left a possible raise up to the school board.

“The closure helped in expenditures, but I was really surprised with the increased revenue, and we were very strategic about if they were things that we could put off like the textbooks to roll that money into offset if we had loss in revenues to make sure that we could still operate,” Garren said. “So it was nice to see that those revenues came true in addition to additional revenues, which was really good. And if those additional revenues stay the way they are, then that will sustain the raises for us moving forward as well.”

A 1% raise would cost $262,000, while a 1.5% raise would total $393,000. Garren said money would come out of reserves, which as of Thursday are about $5 million.

If the school board moves forward with a raise, Garren wants the county’s backing for future help to maintain funding and prevent teacher cuts in the coming year.

“In our budgeting process for next year we’ll need the county to help make sure that we can sustain these efforts, as with every other raise that everybody’s given,” he said. “The county, too, when they gave their 2.5% raise, they know that next year they have to still cover that raise. It’s the same with us. Just them knowing that we will need their help to make sure that we can sustain that moving forward.”

Garren said “most” of the budget committee appeared in favor of supporting the school board.

Kim Bridges, school board member, believes the county’s help shouldn’t be an issue due to Garren’s willingness to lay a foundation for a relationship with county commissioners.

“I believe that’s important, and I believe just as Mr. Garren spoke (Thursday night) in reference to relationships, you have to take the time to develop those relationships with the county commission for their support,” Bridges said. “And along with Mr. Garren being our director, I think it’s important he has the transparency, which they respect, and so do I as a board member, I respect that and value that. I believe that as time progresses and Mr. Garren progresses, the relationship is being established.

“I think he’s proven himself to be open and willing to answer questions if we have them,” she added. “Likewise, if the county commission has any, he will answer their questions as well.”

Kenneth Presley, school board member, said giving teachers a raise is needed.

“I think with everything that’s going on with COVID, I’m sure they’re putting in extra time cleaning and taking care of the children,” Presley said. “It’s important they get a raise and be recognized for what they’ve done.”

Sports considered

School board members will also look to vote on any possible regulations for winter and spring sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision comes after the BOE in August looked into athletic guidelines for the fall.

“Based on the experience and success of how fall sports attendance has been self-managed, I believe the board is leaning toward not limiting capacity at winter and spring sports because we’ve not experienced any issues with that approach to this point,” Garren said. “We will utilize high school venues for some of our middle school rivalry games that experience larger crowds.”