WOODSTOCK – The Shenandoah County School Board on Thursday unanimously approved a $70,256,789 operating budget for fiscal year 2020.

Member Richard Koontz said they have gone over the budget repeatedly and have asked questions, some more than once.

“I think this is a good budget. It is a fair and conservative budget,” Koontz said.

Board member Cynthia Walsh echoed his sentiment.

“It’s what we need,” Walsh said.

The board also approved the $5,205,400 Capital Improvement Plan budget, and the transfer of $252,636 from the county to the school ledger for future management of the county’s technology services, excluding technology for the county Sheriff’s Office and the court system.

Adding in special budgets and school food services (which are separate from the operating budget), the total budget that the public schools will be operating with is $81,789,179.

The school anticipates for the 2020 budget $37,023773 coming from the state, $1,282,915 from the federal government and has requested $30,081906 from Shenandoah County.

Two people spoke before the vote on the budget.

Stephen Curtis, of Edinburg, told board members that they had highly paid administrators in a county with lower household incomes.

“You ask too much from those who have too little,” Curtis said.

He also questioned what innovation has been brought to the schools and demanded a report on the matter that he had already requested.

Jeff Rudy, president of the Shenandoah County Education Association, followed.

He thanked the School Board and Superintendent Mark Johnston for their work in the budget, their negotiations for pay raises and in navigating the 20.4 percent increase in health insurance rates.

“Sadly, there are, in fact, SCPS employees currently working here whose entire paycheck is for health insurance. The insurance conundrum has been a huge concern for many of our members,” Rudy said. “But the SCEA is very appreciative of all of your efforts and difficult decisions made in the best interest of SCPS, its employees, and most importantly, the students.

The school budget will next go to the county supervisors, who ultimately will decide what the county will contribute to funding the schools.

The Board of Supervisors has scheduled a work session to set the advertised tax rate at 1 p.m. March 19. The supervisors will hold a public hearing on the budget and the tax rate at 7 p.m. April 4. Adoption of the budget and tax rate are scheduled for 7 p.m. April 16. The School Board, once that information is set, will host a work session on April 23 and ultimately adopt the school’s final budget at 7 p.m. May 9.

Budget highlights include:

• 3 percent salary increase for employees.

• 20.4 percent increase in health insurance premiums.

• Additional instructional teaching periods at secondary schools.

• The division is also requesting to fund a full-time family assessment planning team coordinator, a 504 coordinator for those students who need special accommodations (not disabilities) such as vision or hearing problems, a special education teacher support specialist at Triplett Tech, a human resources assistant, and a part-time nurse coordinator.

At the end of the meeting, officials announced that Triplett Tech automotive technology instructor Lucas Long was promoted to supervisor of transportation as of July 1.

Long, who has been with the schools for 10 years, said after the meeting he began with the division in the Transportation Department.

During his time as an instructor, Long has served in leadership roles with the Virginia Department of Education as a lead instructor for the automotive division and as a licensed proctor for the Environmental Protection Agency.

Long said he has enjoyed his time in the classroom helping his students. Now, as supervisor of transportation, he said he can help even more students.

Johnson read a prepared statement about Long at the meeting: “Mr. Long has a tremendous understanding of the inner workings of not only transportation operations but of the school division as a whole. He truly is a people person with a desire to make a difference and will serve our school division well.”

– Contact Melissa Topey at mtopey@nvdaily.com