Board Members

(Harlan, Ky.)  At a special called meeting of the Harlan Independent Board of Education, board members wasted little time unanimously approving a 10% staff increase for all district employees. District Finance Officer, Tara Bryson, recommended the salary increase after discussing the various anticipated revenue increases and projected expenditures for the upcoming school year.

Board Members

Noting an increase in enrollment trends over the last several years, the district is in a position to add to the expected increase in revenue from the 2024 legislative session to meet the budget demands as a result of the salary increase. The state budget approved during the last session will increase funding in SEEK, Transportation, and Tier I funds for districts across Kentucky.

Bryson noted, “The two biggest increases in funding for the district will come from student enrollment and the recently approved state budget. We are able to maintain our contingency at the level it has been for the last several years while increasing our expenses for the raises. We will need to be mindful of our investments in the coming years, but I feel comfortable we can support the raises for our staff members.”

Superintendent C.D. Morton stated, “This investment is an important piece to the efforts we are making to strengthen our district for the future. Our school system gets the results it is built for, which is high academic achievement for all students. Our schools have a great culture that enables the achievement to happen. Our teachers are among the best in Kentucky and with this raise, vacancies will be much more attractive at Harlan Independent.”

Board Member Debby Howard was happy to hear that the raise for school staff was the highest in the region and maybe even the state. “I know all school districts are passing raises all around us, which is wonderful. It is needed, I am just excited that we can make the leap at this time and do something so significant. It will put us ahead of some of those around us while also keeping a healthy contingency and allow us to manage the debt service with funds left over. Our school staff deserve it!”

Morton shared with the board that SEEK funding will also increase in 2026 and continued efforts to improve enrollment and attendance would provide the district additional flexibility in upcoming years.

The impact is already paying dividends for the district with regards to employee recruitment and retention efforts according to Morton, “As news has spread, we have seen folks ask for resignation letters to be rescinded and have seen an increased interest in current openings. We believe this will make our jobs much more competitive and allow us to keep our best employees in our district. By attracting and retaining quality professionals, we can ensure that our students receive the high-quality education they deserve, setting them up for success in the years to come."