School Board approved $63 million operating budget

The Shenandoah County School Board has approved a $63,288,867 operating budget for 2017-2018 and a $1,012,749 capital projects budget.

Superintendent Mark Johnston said at the board’s Thursday night meeting that the division will receive $37,515,670 in state and federal funding, which is an increase of $1,043,491 from last year’s budget. The division will also receive $25,773,197 in local funding, which is an increase of $628,615 from last year.

The $1,672,106 increase in the operating budget for fiscal year 2018 over last year will be used to cover the Virginia Retirement System rate increase of $568,586, $347,061 for health insurance coverage for employees, $524,584 for instructional employees and resources, and $231,875 for operating efficiencies and public information resources, he added.

Board member Katheryn Freakley said she is happy to be able to restore health insurance coverage for employees in order to remain competitive in place of salary increases.

“I am deeply saddened that our hard-working employees were overlooked, our backbone really, were overlooked by our supervisors as they allocated the funding that did not adequately fund the critical needs of our school division, and that includes most definitely our personnel and our people,” she added.

The budget will also include funding for instructional personnel, instructional support personnel, career cruising software for school counselors, software purchases of BoardDocs and Hanover Research, custodians, account management single sign-on software, and paperless registration.

Freakley added that she is happy the division is able to fund additional personnel to lighten the loads of staff.

“But the needs don’t go away,” she said, “and they don’t get any cheaper the longer they go unfunded as the school division continues to present them to our supervisors, and honestly I can only hope that our elected leadership eventually sees the value in purposely investing in the foundation of our community and that being our school division.”

Chairwoman Karen Whetzel read an email from board member Sonya Williams-Giersch, who could not attend the meeting. In the email, Williams-Giersch stated she supported and approved of the school budget, but regrets not being able to give their “dedicated staff a well deserved raise this year.”

Planned Capital Improvement Projects for the 2017-2018 school year include school bus replacements, the installation of new unit ventilators, a boiler replacement, roof replacements, masonry repairs, resurfacing a running track and stage lighting repairs.

Also at the meeting, Heather Jennelle, president of the Special Education Advisory Committee, presented the board with an update on their activities and involvement in meeting the needs of youth disabilities during the 2016-2017 school year.

“We’ve had a very busy, active year,” she said.

She added that the committee has continued its annual transition fair, held presentations and invited experts to speak, received autism awareness month proclamations from each town in the county, made autism awareness pins and increased their social media presence over the last year.

The board also heard a report from John Woods, a science teacher at North Fork Middle School, and a few of his students, about the school’s net-zero energy lab that uses sustainable alternative energy to power lights and computers in the school. Students discussed the sun tracker and the benefits of using solar power over coal.

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