Warren schools seek $1.8 million increase

Greg Drescher

FRONT ROYAL – As the Board of Supervisors focuses on overcoming a $1.2 million shortfall, Warren County Public Schools hope to receive a $1.8 million increase in its local contribution.

The School Board at its regular Wednesday meeting approved a request to the Board of Supervisors for $25,329,914 in local funding. The requested hike is a 7.8-percent increase from last year’s $23,421,164 county contribution.

In a Tuesday work session, the county’s proposed budget had $23,481,164 appropriated for the schools, which is a $60,000 increase.

Schools Clerk Robert Ballentine said they previously thought they would request a $1.7 million increase, but projected state contributions have since decreased by $133,000.

About $1.3 million of the requested increase would be used for salaries and benefits – all employees would receive a 2-percent salary increase, which would cost $763,323. Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher said that all surrounding localities are considering a similar raise, and it is important not to fall behind.

“We have a desire to make a positive increase on salaries. I report kind of regularly that our average salaries are second lowest in the region. So we’d like to do what those around us are doing,” Drescher said.

A proposed step increase, which employees have not received in about a decade, would cost $505,351.

A 20-percent health insurance hike is another major factor in the requested funding. The employer’s contribution would require $784,699. Drescher said the schools would like to reduce the employees’ increase from 20 percent to 5 percent, which would cost $338,683.

Drescher said other major requests over $40,000 include:

• A salary increase for supplement employees such as coaches ($46,127).

• A new Ressie Jeffries Elementary School fifth grade teacher ($64,719).

• An increased bus and vehicle and maintenance budget ($78,500).

• An increased maintenance and facilities contracted services budget ($100,000).

All of the schools’ needs total about $2.8 million, but about $1 million in savings from last year’s staff turnover, position reductions, and lower retirement costs would be used to fund a portion of those costs.

Drescher said that school principals and administrators requested $2 million for personnel and $2.1 million for non-labor needs, and none of those requests had any “fluff.” Knowing a $4 million increase would be impossible, the request was trimmed down to include what “would have the largest impact on our students.”

Ballentine said that whether or not the schools receive the total requested increase, it is the School Board’s job to present the Board of Supervisors with the system’s needs.

Drescher said, “I am confident that the county will do everything they can to support our students.”