By Candace Sipos -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- The city and its School Board have starting its yearly process of developing a budget that won't be finalized for another six months.
After receiving preliminary numbers from Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposed budget, city officials started putting together their own, but there's already a nearly $5.8 million deficit looming.
"There are a lot of big numbers that are missing," said Mary Blowe, the city's finance director.
She added that she will know much more about the state's standing at the end of January. The School Board won't have a first reading until April for the proposed budget, and it won't be adopted until June 30.
Interim City Manager Craig Gerhart pointed out some positives about the early numbers.
"Some revenue areas are doing quite well and [are] promising," he said, mentioning the sales tax, which is projected to increase by $400,000 for this budget.
The School Board's chunk of this year's operating budget is roughly $25.3 million, and the school system was almost $7.8 million in debt this year.
The ad hoc committee of City Council and School Board members discussed two major issues for both budgets during its meeting Tuesday -- a potential meals tax boost and pay scale increases.
"It's an exciting opportunity to bring some revenue in for the students," School Board member Melvin Thomas said about the meals tax proposal.
A formal committee to discuss that increase will form later in January and include some local restaurant owners.
As for the potential pay scale increases, Superintendent Rick Leonard said the School Board has "targeted certain specializations" for additional increases on top of a base increase.
"We believe there's a need for a base increase to stay competitive," he said.
Board member Randolph Bryant noted one of the problems with the current system.
"A significant amount of our teachers may be making less than they did four years ago," he said, noting that they pay out more in benefits now.
The School Board has yet to take a formal action on increasing pay scales.