School Board asked to prioritize expenditures

WOODSTOCK –  Schools Superintendent Jeremy Raley told School Board members Wednesday evening that they need to reconsider next year’s budget, “knowing that we are faced with a significant reduction of over $2.6 million from what you approved in your budget. It’s not going to be an easy task.”

Shenandoah County supervisors on Tuesday OK’d the county’s budget and a real estate tax rate of 60 cents per $100 of the assessed value. While the real estate rate was an increase from 57 cents, officials don’t consider it an increase because it covers a revenue loss due to lower real estate assessments.

“We have $1,037,536. What is the best way to spend that new money?” Raley asked board members during a budget work session. “Of the items that were approved in your budget, what are those that rise to the level of priority and what can we accomplish with the little bit of revenue that we have?”

Board member Katheryn Freakley said the reduction in their approved budget has a major impact on what the schools can accomplish.

“The impact is directly to the programs our students can touch and feel and use and learn from, and that’s heartbreaking,” she said.

Among topics of discussion was the proposed 2 percent salary increase for school division staff.

Board members agreed that the salary increase would allow the school division to be more competitive against neighboring school divisions that are offering a 3 percent increase, but board Vice Chairman Rick Koontz Jr. noted that if the salary increase wasn’t approved then more money would be available for other needs requested by the schools.

Freakley added, “It’s unfortunate that once again through another budget cycle our teachers are pitted against our programs because we don’t get full funding.”

Raley asked board members to create a list of items they consider priorities that should be funded next school year.

Board member Cynthia Walsh said she would like to see the biomedical program continue on to its second year after the success and feedback from the first year. She also said program equity items from the boundary change need to be funded.

Freakley said a nurse needs to be a priority after hearing community feedback on the lack of nursing staff at the northern campus. She added the preschool programs should be continued and money should be given for custodian support.

Board member Sonya Williams-Giersch said budget items concerning safety should be given high priority.

Koontz and Chairwoman Karen Whetzel agreed that the assistant principal position at the southern campus should be funded.

Whetzel added that school staff should become part of the process of determining a narrowed list of priorities to guide the board in its final decision. She said she would like school staff to send in ideas on what should be funded based on the limited funding they have been provided.

The School Board will hold another budget work session at 5 p.m. May 17.

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