School Board seeks pay raises in 2018 budget

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County leaders will consider funding a school system budget that would include a salary increase for employees.

The School Board adopted its proposed fiscal 2018 budget at its meeting this week. The proposal calls for an operating budget of $55.09 million and a cafeteria fund of $2.73 million. The proposed budget includes the funding needed to open and operate the new middle school now estimated at more than $1.75 million.

Director of Finance Robert Ballentine reported that the proposal calls for an increase in local funding of approximately $2.44 million or 10.7 percent over the amount allocated in the current budget.

“That’s pretty good size in comparison to other years,” Ballentine admitted. “However, if you take out the amount of opening the new middle school, it brings it down to just under $700,000 increase – $690,980 – which is a … 3 percent increase, probably more reasonable with what’s going on in these economic times.”

The spending plan as proposed includes an increase of approximately $773,000 in the existing operating budget. The additional state funding reduces the request for local money.

Budget cost drivers include:
• $1.75 million to cover the annual operating cost of the new middle school.
• $935,685 to pay for a 2.5 percent salary increase for all full-time, contracted employees.
• $561,166 to cover an increase in what the division contributes to the Virginia Retirement System for employees.
• $133,650 to increase the budget for substitute teachers as a result of higher fill rates.
• $15,027 to increase the number of days for Instructional Technology Resource Teachers.

The food service budget of $2.65 million reflects a 5.7 percent increase over the current spending amount and includes a 2.5 percent salary increase for all full-time, contracted employees.

The good news: the school division can expect no increase in the cost of health insurance, Ballentine said.

Ballentine reported that the Virginia General Assembly recently adopted the fiscal 2018 budget that it sent to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for his approval. The budget as adopted provides $42,698 more in next year’s budget than the governor proposed, Ballentine said. The budget adopted by the legislature does not offer relief from the increase in the retirement contribution.

The budget approved by the General Assembly includes an incentive for the division to receive approximately $139,000 that could cover a 2 percent salary increase for certain employees, Ballentine said. The division would qualify for the funds if the School Board provides a pay increase of at least 2 percent, Ballentine explained. However, the state’s share would not kick in until Feb. 15. The state funding also would cover only those positions classified under Standards of Quality, Ballentine said. Most divisions have more employees than those required to meet Standards of Quality.

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