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Build Your School Budget

On June 26, the Hamilton County Commission will vote on whether or not to adopt an increased education budget as presented by Hamilton County Schools. This will likely require a property tax increase, as there is a $34 million funding gap in the Hamilton County Schools’ budget.

Build your school budget with our calculator

The last increase in the millage rate (read our breakdown on property taxes in Hamilton County) was in 2005, although Hamilton County Schools have received some additional funding through growth in the tax base in the years since.

Additionally, there was a ten percent millage rate increase approved in 2018 due to a Tennessee state law that required an automatic reduction of the millage rate if property values increase to prevent local governments from experiencing a “windfall” in reappraisal years without the approval of the County Commission. That additional funding, although not allocated directly to Hamilton County Schools, was used to fund capital expenses such as new schools and improvements.

The proposed revenue increase would fund a number of key priorities for Hamilton County Schools, including additional school counselors, academic interventionists, and will eliminate classroom fees for parents across the county. The revenue increase would fund:

  • A 5 percent salary increase for teachers and professional employees.
  • Adding 14 new counselors to reduce counselor-to-student ratio from nearly 1:700 to just under 1:500 in elementary schools, but still well short of the 1:250 ratio recommended by experts.
  • Doubling the number of social workers in Hamilton County Schools, decreasing student caseload from 1:3000 to 1:1500.
  • Increasing arts teachers to ensure all elementary students have at least two days of arts instruction.
  • Full-time college and career advisors at every high school
  • Adding intervention/coaching positions so all 42 elementary schools have support staff to assist struggling readers.

Hamilton County ranks lower than many of its peers in property tax burdens, but has benefited from aggressive growth in its tax base. While Tennessee has an overall low tax burden, high sales taxes and a lack of income tax have created one of the most regressive tax systems in America.

County Property Tax Rate
Shelby 4.05
Davidson 3.155
Hamilton 2.7652
Knox 2.12

Local property taxes, one of Tennessee’s only forms of progressive taxation, make up approximately half of school funding (see our 2016 explainer on how education budgets in Tennessee work) due to the Tennessee’s Basic Education Program formula match requirement. School funding varies across the United States, but Tennessee has lagged in per-pupil funding.

Metro Ideas Project wanted to offer parents, residents, and students the opportunity to estimate their property taxes if the proposed budget presented by the Hamilton County School Board is adopted. Additionally, we analyzed several high-priority unfunded education needs that were not included in the proposed budget and offer parents an opportunity to estimate what their property taxes could look like if those line-items were included.

Below is a calculator based off of your estimated property value and several adjustable key funding priorities. Share your proposed vision for Hamilton County Schools and how much you’re willing to pay for an appropriately funded education system.

Note: Calculating your property taxes without any increases or changes will simply provide your estimated bill under the FY2020 School Board budget proposal.

Property Value

Property taxes are calculated from a property's appraised value and Hamilton County's tax rate. Every $0.01 increase to the tax rate generates approximately $1 million in revenue.
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Teacher Pay

A 1 percent increase in teacher pay costs Hamilton County $2.5 million. The estimates from our calculator reflect salaries and benefits. Hamilton County teachers currently have a lower starting salary than surrounding counties.
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Art Teachers

Ten additional art teachers are needed to put a full-time art position in every Hamilton County elementary school.
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Instructional Support

Instructional support includes the hiring of instructional interventionists, school counselors, social workers, and other supporting staff.
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Post-Secondary Credits

Funds post-secondary learning opportunities with goal of 5 post-secondary credits by graduation.
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School Maintenance

Capital maintenance remains the biggest category unfunded in the school system's proposed budget. This option would increase the overall amount by nearly $21 million.
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