School Board expects higher retirement costs

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County schools must put more into its workers’ retirement fund next year, officials learned this week.

The School Board continued its discussion about the fiscal 2018 budget at a work session Wednesday. The board needs to allocate $565,595 in the next budget to cover the cost of a rate increase on how much the division pays into the Virginia Retirement System from existing salaries, Superintendent Greg Drescher said.

At the same time, the board must find a way to cover the costs associated with opening the new middle school later this summer. The annual, recurring cost to open and operate the facility is roughly $1.67 million. The county started to set aside funds for this anticipated expense several budget cycles ago.

School officials project spending $10.45 million for non-labor needs and $43.76 million on salaries and benefits, the latter amount not reflecting the rate increase for retirement contributions. The system can expect $54.33 million in revenue that would leave the board with a surplus of $116,070. However, additions to the budget total $718,272, leaving the board with a deficit of $607,202. In addition to retirement contributions, the system could expect its budget for substitute teachers to increase by $133,650. Officials say health insurance costs are not expected to increase.

The board can reduce the budget by a total of $597,811 but still leave a deficit of almost $4,400 by cutting three bus drivers, saving $37,332, if the system switches to a tiered start-time schedule. The board can save approximately $300,000 by not filling a handful of vacant positions. Removing a bus replacement would cut the budget by $107,000.

Other considerations for the budget include:
• A 1.5-percent bonus for all contracted workers at a cost of $503,619 that could mean a loss of $243,780 if the initiative requires a local match.
• A 1-percent, across-the-board salary increase for contracted employees at a cost of $374,274.
• A step increase for those eligible on scales with years of experience at a cost of $393,442 or $493,569 on scales with and without experience.
• Two additional bus drivers at a cost of $238,136 if tiered starts are not implemented.

The state Senate is considering a spending bill that would give the county school system $14,377 less in revenue. The House of Delegates’ version of the bill would give the school system $36,202 in extra revenue.

Also at the meeting, the board:
• Approved a change order of unforeseen expense for $58,266 related to the new middle school project, specifically appliances and a conduit for a communications box.
• Approved a contract with LV Comm-Sec to buy and install a door-access control system at the new middle school for $23,170.
• Approved a contract with Document Solutions Inc. for $36,720 to lease copiers at Leslie Fox Keyser Elementary School.
• Renewed insurance for property, liability, student accident, auto, cyber risk, storage tank and workers’ compensation for 2017-2018 through the Virginia Association of Counties Group Self Insurance Risk Pool, contingent on the appropriation of sufficient funds in the 2018 budget.

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