By Kim Walter
During the Frederick County School Board meeting Tuesday night, Superintendent David Sovine presented his fiscal year 2014 budget proposal, which focused mainly on salary increases for the division's teachers.
The budget totals $168.1 million, which includes a school operating fund of $136.4 million. The fund accounts for the largest portion of the school system's programs and operations.
The fund expenditures will need to increase by $4.5 million from last year, in order to not only continue daily operations at the schools, but also to address salary scales.
With the employer cost of group health insurance projected to rise by $1 million, expenditures increasing and a $1.5 million reduction in revenues, the division will face a $6 million budget gap in fiscal year 2014.
During Tuesday night's meeting, Sovine reminded school board members that school employees haven't received a salary increase since July 2008. He said he hopes that by giving raises to teachers and other staff, the county will be able to compete with compensation for teachers in surrounding divisions.
"I, like the school board, recognize that teachers, administrators and support staff are the division's most important resources, and they have continued to serve students well despite the fiscal challenges we've endured over the past several years," he said.
The superintendent's proposed salary increase comes in two parts. Part one deals with the governor's proposed 2 percent increase for Standards of Quality instruction positions, which includes teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, principals, assistant principals and instructional aides.
If the governor's proposal is approved, Frederick County would receive slightly less than $700,000 to provide that salary increase. However, the division is requesting another $1.3 million to provide the same increase for all school staff.
Part two of Sovine's plan requires an additional $2.8 million. He said he hopes to provide a two-step movement on existing salary scales to staff who have more than one year of experience, and a one-step movement for employees who have completed their first year of experience.
Compared to surrounding counties, Frederick County teachers' salaries are below the survey group average at each benchmarked year except for the most experienced teacher, Sovine said.
"The same issue exists on other pay tables such as those for instructional aides and bus drivers," he added. "If we are to attract and retain the best qualified staff to serve our students, it is critical that our salary scales become more competitive."
Other priorities of the budget proposal include reducing class sizes, restoring technology funding and replacing school buses.
Many school divisions in the country are looking to improve security in buildings, and those changes won't happen without funding.
Steve Edwards, coordinator of policy, records management and communication, said the division's buildings and grounds information technology department has been tasked with recommending ways to improve security at school entrances.
The recommendations will be unique for each building, as they vary in design and age. Edwards said a buzzer entry system is being considered for the county's elementary schools.
"In fiscal year '14, the school division's debt service payments will be lower than the revenues coming into the debt service fund which will result in approximately $480,000," he said. The funds can be used for one time expenditures like safety and security improvements.
The budget will have to be approved by April, following a public hearing in March.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or email@example.com