WOODSTOCK — School and School Board officials heard remarks about the proposed fiscal year 2020 budget at Thursday night’s public hearing.
Shenandoah County Public School Superintendent Mark Johnston presented the proposed $69.7 million operating budget earlier in the week to board members.
The budget is an overall 4 percent increase of $2.7 million from the $66,998,391 fiscal year 2019 budget.
Resident Stephen Curtis spoke first.
“We have to set priorities. Each taxpayer has to set priorities. When you (school division) take more, they (taxpayers) have to prioritize,” Curtis said.
Curtis spoke of the need for innovations in the schools to help decrease costs, citing the use of technology within a business (such as using kiosks to place fast food orders) that reduce salaries by cutting the number of employees needed.
Jeff Rudy, president of the Shenandoah County Education Association, spoke of the need for additional funding in the state and local educational system.
The association in January marched in Richmond, along with others, asking legislators to fund education.
“Education in Virginia is still in dire straits; per-pupil spending is still 9 percent behind 2009 values; more school counselors, social workers, psychologists and nurses are needed for our students, and teacher salaries (in Virginia) are $9,200 below the national average,” Rudy said.
He noted that the proposed budget makes steps to support Shenandoah County students, but only “attempts” to keep teacher salaries competitive by suggesting a 3 percent raise.
The association has previously asked for a 5 percent raise.
Rudy said the association is excited about the administration’s willingness to address stipends.
“The SCEA hopes that not only will job descriptions be re-examined, but appropriate compensation be given as well. We hope that stipends or payment be given to all who are asked to work in addition to, or outside of, the contract,” Rudy said.
Rebecca Cooper reiterated the need for stipends to be addressed, especially for teachers involved in the marching band and musicals.
“This is our hope this will be addressed prior to the budget approval. Thank you for your support of the arts,” Cooper said.
School officials and School Board members continue to work on the proposed budget. They conducted a budget work session before Thursday’s public hearing.
An update was given on what appears to be a more realistic picture of the state funding to the divisions budget. They had expected the state to contribute $1.2 million, an increase of 3.38 percent. It appears, however, that it may be less. The division should soon know what it will receive from the state as the General Assembly concludes today.
The division also continues to wait to find out what health insurance costs will be.