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Proposed budget includes raises for school personnel

By Ryan Cornell

WOODSTOCK -- Teachers, administrators and other staff in Shenandoah County Public Schools will see higher salaries next year, if the fiscal 2015 budget proposed on Thursday is approved.

The budget proposal, which totals $61,873,208, calls for a $5.5-million increase from the current year's budget. Division Superintendent Jeremy Raley is requesting $3.9 million more from the county than last year.

Raley said these additional dollars would help fund a raise in salaries for all faculty and staff. The proposed budget would increase salary scales of teachers to the benchmark plus a 2 percent increase ($1.7 million), a 5.4 percent rise in the salaries of all non-teaching staff ($769,000) and meet state requirements for mandated benefits ($1,066,205).

The average salary for teachers in Shenandoah County Public Schools is $39,500 for teachers in their first year and $41,601 for teachers after 10 years of experience. Those two figures are below the median salaries -- $40,000 and $43,401 respectively -- for teachers in surrounding divisions.

The proposed benchmarks for 2014-2015 are $40,800 for beginning teachers and $44,269 for teachers with 10 years of experience, Raley said.

The current year's budget included a 2 percent increase in the salaries for all school employees.

Mandated increases in benefits under the governor's budget include a $1 million increase in payments to the Virginia Retirement System, an $18,010 increase in group life insurance and a $25,214 increase in retiree health care.

A survey conducted last year by James Madison University revealed a 22 percent decrease since 2009 in job satisfaction for school division employees and a 31 percent increase in reported intent to leave. Employees surveyed last year graded their pay satisfaction as a 2.13 on a 1-to-5 scale. Raley stressed the importance of turning these trends around.

"We are a people business," he said. "We don't produce widgets."

During Thursday's "funding request" presentation, Raley said that money would also be spent on hiring more teachers to meet the state's 24:1 class size ratio, introducing modern technology into classrooms and expanding the curriculum.

Among other items discussed were $175,387 to hire three teachers for students with English as a second language, $35,000 for an added STEM curriculum and $25,000 to purchase additional Internet bandwidth. The proposal also calls for $65,000 to replace the three minivans transporting special needs and homeless students to county schools.

The proposed 2015 budget projects $27 million in funding from Shenandoah County, $1.3 million in funding from the federal government and $31 million in funding from the state, which is the most state funding since the 2008-2009 school year.

Board member Kathryn Holsinger voiced concerns about the amount of this aid.

"I think we all need to keep in mind how much of our budget is mandated by the federal government, by the state government, but is unfunded and is truly out of our control," she said. "That doesn't go away and it's gotten worse since 2008, not better."

Raley said that because of an extended General Assembly session, the School Board might not receive a budget from the state until May.

"I think we may be in for the long haul when it comes to final statement dollars," he said.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for 7 p.m.Wednesday. The budget would be presented to the county on March 6 and final approval is expected on March 27.

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

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