Teacher, staff raises are cut from school budget

WOODSTOCK – A salary increase for Shenandoah County teachers and staff is a major item that had to be cut from the division’s budget for the next school year.

County schools Superintendent Mark Johnston told School Board members on Monday that cuts had to be made after the initial operating budget proposal of $64,955,698 was not fully funded.

“We just don’t have the funds,” he said.

School Board Chairwoman Karen Whetzel added that she is disappointed employee raises couldn’t be funded this year.

“Our employees deserve a raise,” she said.

Johnston delivered a proposed $63,288,867 operating budget and $1,012,749 capital projects budget to the School Board after notification from the county Board of Supervisors as to what local funding the school division would receive for the 2017-2018 school year.

He said 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.

Other items cut from the budget include textbooks and instructional resources for elementary schools, Forecast5 Analytics software and the hiring of a federal regulations compliance coordinator.

Johnston added that there are still funds in the division’s textbook account that will be used to purchase online resources teachers can use in place of textbooks.

The budget does 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.

“I think these things will go a long way for our classroom environments, for our students,” Johnston added. “This really is about service to students.”

Board Member Cynthia Walsh said teachers she has spoken to understand not being able to get the raise, but said they needed more time and resources to help them ease their workloads.

Board Member Katheryn Freakley said the items that will be funded will help to reduce the already heavy workload of the division’s employees.

“These are all resources that allow us to give our staff the tools that they can then turn around and use to make their loads lighter,” she said. “In the absence of staffing positions or not meeting a fully funded needs-based budget, our ability to then give some of the tools that we can to lighten those loads is certainly better than not.”

She added that she is heartbroken that county leadership didn’t view human capital as a priority during budget deliberations and hopes the county can address her concern moving forward.

Board Member Sonya Williams-Giersch added that the revised budget gives the “biggest bang for our buck.”

“We do need to come together as a county,” she said. “We as a county need to decide where we want to go. Do we want to move forward? Do we want to become stagnant?”

Vice Chairman Rick Koontz thanked Johnston for prioritizing the needs of the school division to create the new budget, giving resources and extra staff to help alleviate the effects of not funding salary increases.

The School Board will vote to adopt the 2017-2018 budget during its May 11 meeting.

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