Superintendent makes pitch for more funds

WOODSTOCK — Shenandoah County School Board’s request for more money next year could help drive a tax increase.

Superintendent Jeremy Raley says the additional funds are needed to fix pay discrepancies, provide more technology to students and staff and to improve overall learning in the division.

Raley made his pitch for the system’s fiscal 2016 budget to the Board of Supervisors at a work session Thursday. Raley presented the budget approved by the School Board.

Raley has proposed a budget of $62.24 million. That represents an increase of $2.8 million over the current budget of $59.43 million. Of the $2.8 million, $2.43 million would come from local funds. The remaining $368,054 would come from the state and other sources.

“We’re a proud school division and, you know what?” Raley said. “We have a lot to be proud of. But the truth of the matter is we have needs. We have areas where we need to improve.”

The superintendent is proposing salary increases at various levels for different personnel. Raises would range from 0.65 percent for bus drivers to 9.63 percent for instructional assistants. Teachers would receive a 2.24-percent salary increase under Raley’s proposal. Administrators would receive a 1.37-percent salary increase. The average salary increase would be 2.52.

Raley explained that the reason for the lower raise for bus drivers is that the county already pays a competitive wage to these employees compared to other jurisdictions. By contrast, the county does not pay its instructional assistants a competitive salary, Raley said. Food service workers also would see a 4.54-percent raise from a different area of the school budget that requires no local money.

The proposed restructuring of the teacher salary scale at the second year, along with the revision of the benchmark and scale for non-teaching employees, will cost $952,205.

The increased funding in Raley’s request includes $888,476 in additional money for instructional personnel. The funds would pay for more teachers, counselors and coordinators, among other new positions. This amount also includes $112,021 to expand the division’s preschool program.

The request also includes $185,000 for additional instructional resources, $135,000 for programming and $234,419 for technology.

Many of the items in the budget were included in the School Board’s request for this fiscal year but could not be funded because supervisors did not allocate enough money to the division. The School Board ultimately chooses how it spends the money appropriated by the county. In total, Raley’s request includes about $788,000 in items not funded in the current budget but sought last year.

Raley told the board that division officials received more than $6 million in additional funding requests from the schools. Officials worked over the next few months to pare that down, he said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com