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School division looking at ways to cut $675,000 from proposed budget

WOODSTOCK – Shenandoah County Public Schools is attempting to find ways to cut $675,601 from its budget.

The budget reduction is necessary following last week’s Board of Supervisors meeting in which board members chose not to fully fund the division’s. The supervisors budgeted $27.77 million for operations, instead of the requested $28.45 million for operation costs.

“It is a much better level of funding than in the past but is still not fully funded, which I would prefer,” said schools Superintendent Mark Johnston

The School Board has started discussions on where it might find areas to decrease funding.

Johnston made recommendations for cuts, including:

  • Adjusting the request for hiring four additional special education teachers to one, saving $192,000.
  • Adjusting the request for hiring four additional special education paraprofessionals to one, saving $86,313.
  • Cutting back on sustaining the One to One computer devices for all students, saving $188,059.
  • Not hiring an additional Math teacher for Strasburg High School, saving $64,000
  • Dropping the requested increase in money for maintenance contracts, saving $27,931.
  • Dropping stipends for ELA Curriculum Leaders, saving $13,500.
  • No longer considering a request to bring in two school psychologist interns, saving $40,000.
  • Dropping a request to hire a behavioral coach, saving $28,771.
  • Not hiring a speech teletherapy assistant, saving $28,097

Board of Education Vice Chairman Richard Koontz Jr., unwilling to just give up on hiring the positions the schools need, asked for a list of vice principals and their salaries in an effort to see if they were above median and could possibly have wages in those administrative positions temporarily frozen, without an increase this year.

“I would support positions over higher income,” Koontz said.

Johnston cautioned against this, citing the lack of increases in anyone’s salaries last year.

“I am afraid we would go from teacher flight to administration flight,” Johnston said.

The division experienced about a 15 percent teacher turn over the last three years.

The budget still calls for teachers to receive raises to bring them to the median of surrounding divisions plus a 2 percent increase, anticipating that surrounding divisions will again budget for an increase – keeping them to the median.

“That message has gotten out. We have decreased from 15 percent to 5 percent turnover,” Johnston said, cautioning it is early in the year and that figure could change.

Koontz stressed he is not automatically calling for a wage freeze for vice principals but is wanting to perform his due diligence and gather all the facts the board is going to need to make decisions on how to cut $675,000 from the budget.

Johnston disputed recent public statements by a county supervisor and area media about administrative salaries being higher than area divisions.

“They are not,” Johnston said.

Shenandoah County Public Schools operates on a 260-day contract, as well as Winchester, Augusta and Rockingham counties. Other divisions operate on different contracts with varying days of operation, some as reduced as 245 days. When adjusted, the salaries come more into the median, he said.

Johnston said people are using data that is not official data, was two years old and did not include the fact that Shenandoah County froze salaries last year to draw a conclusion that is not accurate.

The Board of Supervisors also chose to fund about half of the needed requested Capital Improvements Projects. Supervisors approved $3 million for capital improvements, which includes approximately $450,000 in school project savings carried over from last year, instead of the requested $3.8 million. The division will have to soon start looking at what maintenance, projects and replacements can wait for another year.

The School Board is scheduled to adopt its final budget on May 10.

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