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Warren County School Board gets more realistic look at budget

By Kim Walter

FRONT ROYAL -- The Warren County School Board now faces the difficult task of choosing what initiatives to fund so that it can reach a balanced fiscal 2013-2014 budget.

Rob Ballentine, the division's director of finance, presented an updated version of the preliminary budget during the School Board's Thursday night work session. He said that, according to the General Assembly's recently approved budget, the division would get a little more than $100,000 in additional funding for the 2 percent pay raise than was proposed in the governor's budget.

In the updated version, Ballentine also included possible 5 percent cuts in federal revenue, given that sequestration takes place. If the cuts happen, the school system would receive almost $170,000 less in federal funds than last year.

County appropriation may have to be considerably more than last year, though.

"The county wanted to know how much it would cost for us to give the 2 percent salary increase to all school employees, how much the state was contributing, and then what the leftover amount was that the locality would have to provide," Ballentine said. "That remaining amount is $407,716, and, as far as I know, the county is going to try and work that into their budget. It's not for sure, but they'll try."

The potential revenue in the division's fiscal 2013-2014 budget comes to $49,934,091, which Ballentine said is more on track with revenue from the 2008-2009 budget.

On the expenditure side, the school system will spend $49,680,611 to cover salaries and benefits for employees -- including the 2 percent salary increase -- as well as the preliminary non-labor budget. That would mean that the division needs to find some way to use a surplus of $253,480.

"At least that number is in black and not red," Ballentine said of the preliminary surplus.

However, board members and administrative staff at each of the schools have come up with more than 15 initiatives to fund, including several new teaching positions, increased fuel costs and increased fee costs.

The most expensive initiative is funding a $10 per day increase for substitute teachers, which would cost more than $78,000. As board members discussed the importance of initiatives, the question came up as to how that increase would make the division competitive with substitute pay in other counties.

Superintendent Pamela McInnis said that, "even with the increase, we're still way behind other school systems."

While Warren County schools pay substitute teachers about $55 or $60 a day, surrounding divisions are paying anywhere from $90 to $100.

Board member Joanne Cherefko, along with other members, seemed surprised at the difference in compensation, and agreed that it sounded like a necessary change.

"I don't see any fluff here," Cherefko said as she looked at the list of initiatives.

If board members chose to fund all requested items, they would need $219,852 in additional county appropriation to make a balanced budget.

The board needs to have an approved budget before the county has to approve its own budget in mid April. Members say they hope to come up with a balanced budget and approve it at the next School Board meeting, which is at 6 p.m. March 21.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com


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