Compensation, boundary needs among top budget concerns

WOODSTOCK – The Shenandoah County Public Schools School Board discussed budget needs at its work session on Thursday night.

Superintendent Jeremy Raley said the budget will be dependent on student enrollment, more specifically, the average daily membership, based upon a projected March 2017 enrollment. This number is what the state uses to determine funding.

“We know that we have faced some difficult times this year as a result as a decrease in enrollment; we had to freeze spending, and we’ve had to make some very difficult decisions there,” he said.

Based upon enrollment trends from DeJong-Richter, the projected funded average daily membership for March 2016 will be 5,848 students. The March 2017 projection is 5,798 students.

Among the talking points for how to allocate the budget funds was employee compensation and benefits, which is a majority of the budget cost, Raley said.

One proposal was for a salary increase. Each employee with successful performance will move to the next level in the pay scale. In addition to that, a 1 percent cost of living increase will be added to salaries.

The school system also has two health insurance plans, but neither contribute to dependent or family coverage, which Raley said is atypical for the region. The board can consider narrowing this gap with area school districts to become more competitive.

Other needs include additional personnel for instructional technology, resource coaches, career coaches and school counselors. By adding staff to these areas, equity can be created at the campuses.

The success of the biomedical program after its first year requires the board to consider continuing the program into year two.

Traveling costs was another budgetary need of the school division as athletic travel and career and technical education travel are seeing an increasing need to add more buses, drivers and fuel as students are traveling farther away from the district for sports and as more students travel for career and technical education at Triplett Tech.

School board members explained what their current priorities are for what the budget should be used for.

Chairwoman Karen Whetzel asked how the boundaries will adjust the budget needs of personnel and transportation as boundaries are moved and students are required to travel to new schools.

Raley said, “Once you decide on boundaries we need to start running routes … plus part of your decision-making will need to be, once you establish policy, who are those students who are grandfathered and who are exceptions to that policy.”

Whetzel also asked, “How can we be sure that our presumptions will be accurate and our numbers will be right?”

Raley replied in regards to attendance information, “That’s a community concern that many of you have heard, and there’s concern that some people are not giving us accurate information.”

“So I can tell you that there are things that we do now and things that we have talked about that we want to do in the future. Once you adopt your policy, the key thing is going to be enforcement of that policy and monitoring that policy,” he added.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com

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