Oak Ridge teachers and principals have requested a 4 percent salary increase in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Teachers said they’ve “gone backwards” in terms of real buying power during the past decade. And administrators said it’s become more difficult to attract quality applicants in part because of salaries.
It’s not clear yet if the requested increases will be approved or if the money is available or would require a property tax rate increase. There are a number of steps to complete before the budget receives final approval in June. Among other things, it has to be considered by both the Oak Ridge Board of Education and Oak Ridge City Council.
Robertsville Middle School Principal Bruce Lay said he knows the school board and administrators want to provide pay increases, but the “funding just has not been there.”
“It’s been tough budget times,” Lay told the Oak Ridge Board of Education on Monday, adding that he hopes it’s getting better.
Fifteen years ago, Lay said, Oak Ridge Schools could recruit new staff and not worry about them turning down jobs here. But he suggested that’s not necessarily true anymore.
“We are no longer there,” Lay said.
If, for example, someone has to commute from Maryville or Rockwood to teach in Oak Ridge, they’re likely to take into account the cost of commuting here when deciding whether to accept a job, Lay said.
Also, new tenure requirements may, when combined with salary, make it more difficult to recruit today, school officials said.
“It’s just becoming more difficult to attract quality individuals,” Lay said.
Meanwhile, teachers said they’ve had an average increase of 1.5 percent during the past 10 years, while the cost of living has gone up an average of 2.38 percent per year.
“In real buying power of the last 10 years, we’ve actually gone backwards,” said Mike Haygood, co-president of the Oak Ridge Education Association.
“Oak Ridge teachers have been required to do more and more with less and less for years now,” OREA Co-president Steve Reddick said.
A presentation by Haygood said the OREA is requesting:
- increasing the base salary by 4 percent,
- maintaining funding for all staff positions—certified and teaching assistants,
- increasing all eligible personnel by one experience increment, and
- maintaining health insurance, eye care, and dental benefits at current levels.
Haygood’s presentation said Oak Ridge ranks 15th in the state for those with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, with a $36,407 average. Oak Ridge’s average $40,048 salary ranks 16th in the state for those with a minimum of a master’s degree.
More information will be added as it becomes available.