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School boards roll out proposed budgets

By Ryan Cornell

School boards in Frederick County and Warren County will hold public hearings on their proposed 2015 fiscal year budgets this week. The Shenandoah County School Board will meet to discuss its budget for one last time on Thursday before its public hearing next week.

The proposed 2015 budget for Frederick County Public Schools totals $178.3 million, an increase of nearly $12 million from the previous budget. The increase includes a $9.6-million rise in school operating fund expenditures, which adds up to $143.6 million of the 2015 budget.

In a School Board meeting last month, Division Superintendent David Sovine said the school operating fund expenditures allow for continuing current services and programs, covering the state-mandated increase in employer payments to the Virginia Retirement System, paying the projected 5-percent increase in the employer's share of health insurance premiums, implementing a full-day kindergarten program across the school division in August and upping teacher and staff salaries.

The budget includes a $4.2 million proposed salary initiative that would provide a one-step movement on the salary scales for all staff.

According to the budget proposal released by Sovine, the initiative would take current average salaries in the school division -- which are generally below the salaries in neighboring divisions -- and increase it to above the area average.

"Prior to [fiscal year 2014], it had been five years since school employees had any sustained salary increase," Sovine said in a statement. "This initiative will help us be more competitive as we seek to attract and retain the best qualified teachers to engage our students in learning and help them be more successful."

Because the division is expected to receive only $1.1 million in additional revenue from state and federal assistance, the budget proposal requests an additional $8.5 million from the Frederick County Board of Supervisors.

According to a release, the board of supervisors projects an increase of $8.1 million in local tax revenue, which could support the school board by $4.6 million.

Student membership in Frederick County Public Schools decreased from 13,150 in 2014 to an anticipated 13,065 in 2015, according to the budget proposal, while the staff increased from 2,054 to 2,082 over the two years. The proposal states a projected class size of 20 students in elementary schools and 24 students in middle and high schools.

The public hearing on the Frederick County proposed 2015 fiscal year budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the administration office.

The proposed 2015 budget for Warren County Public Schools projects its total revenue at $50,957,742 and total required expenditures at $50,873,171.

According to Rob Ballentine, Director of Finance for the school division, the total required expenditures is based on level funding for all non-labor expenses and no increase in salaries or health benefits for staff. The $84,571 sum left over from the required expenditures is available for any increases in salary, benefits, additional positions or non-labor costs.

Ballentine said the composite index for 2015 fell by .0020 percent, which means the state will provide more money to the school division -- a projected increase of $1,050,981 since the current year.

"These numbers will shift, these numbers will change, but again, we're not starting out with a large amount of money to work with," he said at a school board work session last month.

He said the cost of paying the Virginia Retirement System is just under $800,000.

"It's become more and more difficult each year to squeeze that marginal dollar out of the budget," he said. "Because quite honestly, anything that could be squeezed out has been squeezed out."

Student membership in the school division has plateaued over the past two years at about 5,400 after spiking by 100 students in 2012.

The public hearing on the Warren County proposed 2015 fiscal year budget is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in the government center.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com

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