School budget includes ‘cost of competing’

Greg Drescher

FRONT ROYAL – The Warren County School Board unanimously approved a 2016-2017 budget at its March meeting on Wednesday for submission to the Board of Supervisors.

Superintendent L. Gregory Drescher recommended approval for a $54,817,212 operating budget and a $2,653,901 cafeteria fund budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The operating budget weighs in more than $1.7 million heavier than last year’s, excluding offset money needed for losses in state funding. The proposed cafeteria budget is 5.7 percent higher than the 2016 budget and includes its own 3 percent salary increase.

Drescher pointed out an expense that has increased since the board’s previous work session with the Board of Supervisors. An expected cost for health insurance contributions almost doubled from what was previously estimated, now coming to $608,493.

Because the schools are anticipating an 8 percent higher fill rate from a new substitute teacher system, an additional $52,584 was also included in the budget changes.

A blanket 3 percent salary increase and step increases for eligible employees added more than $1.6 million to the budget, and increases to funding for transportation, maintenance, technology and instruction tacked on $500,000.

Drescher proposed that the county would need to provide an additional $1,725,685 for the budget, proposing alternate scenarios to the county if the supports weren’t factored in.

“While I suggest that we give a dollar amount of $1.7 plus million, I also want to give those scenarios as well, so that they have a full picture of what those needs are,” he said.

Director of Finance Rob Ballentine added that proposed House and Senate budgets only differ slightly from the governor’s proposed budget, which was what the schools had been working off of. The Senate’s budget would subtract around $45,000 from revenue, while the House’s budget would add around $98,000. He said neither would require the five new elementary positions factored in at a previously expected cost of $295,528.

Drescher also announced that Amy Gubler, the current principal at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School, will become principal of the new Warren County Middle School effective July 1. He said that the schools will look to name a new principal to fill her place within the next month.

The School Board also approved designs for construction projects at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School. A new entryway with two offices for check-in to the school will have a lighted canopy with the school’s name, and most of the building will be covered with a new hip roof as opposed to a gable roof.

Assistant Superintendent for Administration Melody Sheppard said that work on the front entrance will most likely begin around June and take six months to complete, meaning that an alternative entrance will be used during the first few months of school in the fall. Work on the new roof is estimated to last 18 months, but Sheppard said that construction wouldn’t hinder classes.

She also said administration brought the designs and other future projects before Ressie staff to mixed reactions.

“I think there was some excitement, they’re looking forward to the project,” she said. “A little apprehension as well, to all the things that are coming and the unknowns that they’re going to experience throughout the process.”

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com