Shenandoah County School Board gives budget final approval

The Shenandoah County Public Schools Board on Thursday voted unanimously to approve a total operating budget of $66.7 million, an increase of $3.4 million.

The full operating budget breaks down to $27,773,197 from the county, $1,381,685 from the federal government and an expected $35,772,906 from the state, which still must pass its budget, as well as $1,846,071 from other funding sources.

The board also approved a capital improvements project of $2.5 million. Once the district’s special budget and its food budget are figured, the district’s total budget of all funds increases to $74.8 million.

“For the first time in many, many years this budget represents an aggressive approach to finally address numerous unmet needs, not the least of which is to get our salaries to competitive levels,” said Superintendent Mark Johnston.

All employees for the school division will see a pay increase. Teachers will see their pay scale adjusted to the median of surrounding divisions, plus 2 percent. Non-teacher pay will increase by a step, plus 3 percent.

The budget does not fully fund the school system’s requests. The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors last month set the county’s annual contribution to the schools of $27.77 million, $675,601 less than requested.

The division was able to hire one more additional special education teacher and one more special education paraprofessional. But the funding level did not allow the division to hire a needed math teacher for Strasburg High School, a behavioral coach, or a speech teletherapy assistant.

Board of Education Vice Chairman Richard Koontz Jr. said in looking at the final budget that he felt everyone involved in appropriating the money had met the highest needs for the schools.

“We were able to preserve a fair amount of the requests for staffing. I am pleased,” Koontz said.

Koontz had previously asked for a list of vice principals and their salaries to see if their salaries were above average, and could possibly be frozen temporarily this year, in an attempt to free up money for filling positions that the schools need.