Cullman High School teacher Amy Gleaton

Cullman High School teacher Amy Gleaton addresses the school board Monday evening.

The Cullman City Schools passed a $31.6 million budget Monday night, but not before hearing from a teacher who asked the board to look at raising teacher salaries above the state’s minimum salary schedule.

Cullman High School teacher Amy Gleaton told the board that the city schools are losing “good, qualified teachers” to surrounding systems that pay more than the state minimum salaries.

“We have lost teachers this year that we wanted to hire because they would not come to Cullman City Schools because of our salary schedule,” she said. Others, she added, won’t apply because they know what Cullman City Schools pay.

She listed several school systems within driving range of Cullman, including the Cullman County School System, that pay above the state minimum.

“I have never seen an exodus like I did this year of quality teachers leaving our system to go somewhere else,” said Gleaton. She noted that school system administrators and directors are among the top 15% of salaries in the state, and while they work hard to earn that, “so do we. And we should be paid our value. It should reflect in a similar way what we’re paying our directors, and our principals and our superintendents. There is a massive discrepancy and it needs to be addressed.”

Cullman City Schools Chief Finance Officer James Brumley presented the budget during the second of two required budget hearings. 

The system should be seeing a total of $31.67 million in general fund revenues for the upcoming year, with $17.89 million of that coming from state sources and $13.4 million coming from local sources.

Brumley said the local ad valorem tax and sales tax revenues increased from last year by around $700,000, and he is projecting the system will see another increase over the next year.

Expenditures for the general fund are projected at $32.43 million, with $18.6 of that going to instructional services and $4.8 million going to instructional support services — making up most of the system’s payroll and benefits. The budget also projects $3.97 million spent on operations and maintenance and $1.6 million spent on administrative services.

Brumley said the system will have a total of 381.23 full-time personnel units, with 216 teachers, five librarians, seven counselors, 15 administrators and 136 support personnel.

State funding sources will pay for 270.15 personnel units, with federal money paying for 80 units and local sources paying for 31 units.

At the end of the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the system is projected to have an ending general fund balance of $8.2 million, which amounts to three months of operating reserve, Brumley said. They are required by state law to have one month of operating reserve, he added, but the board has set a goal of three months.

The system is planning several big-ticket capital improvement projects, including an  $11 million addition and renovation at Cullman Primary School and a projected $23 million project for addition and renovation at Cullman Middle School, said Brumley. Other projects include replacing bleachers at Cullman High School, adding restrooms to the school’s tennis courts, installing turf on the softball field, building a maintenance building, renovating the Cullman Middle School cafeteria, performing maintenance on the CHS c-building’s roof and installing new remote access entry systems at each school campus.

Brumley said the school system also has funding from the CARES Act to use, but the allocation of those funds will be decided at a future meeting.

At Monday’s meeting, the board also approved the purchase of property at 910 3rd Ave.

Amy Henderson can be reached at 256-734-2131 Ext. 216.

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