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The saying “be careful what you ask for” seemed at play at the School Board Budget seminar Friday (Jan. 19).

Often in response to Board member inquiries, Superintendent Chuck Winkler supplied so much information the seminar went over the allotted time by three hours.

All five members of the Board wanted to focus on salaries. Andrew Pullen (Columbia) also asked for specifics on the cost of athletics, career and technical education; Brenda Pace (Palmyra) on special education issues; and Chair Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) on evaluations, staffing ratios and alternative education.

Current budget
Winkler reported there is a low projected surplus of a half million dollars in the 2017-18 budget. When the last Board built the current budget, the governor talked about providing a 1.5 percent raise to school employees.
That did not happen, but the Board decided to include it anyway and find a way to give the money to employees, Winkler said. 

Operations costs have been low in a couple of the past months which also played into the surplus, he said.

Winkler proposed giving a 1 percent raise to all employees, with no employee receiving less than $300. That adds up to $280,000.

At the end of the school year, if there is still a surplus, Winkler proposed giving employees another bonus. He asked the Board for direction so he could bring back a solid proposal in the Feb. 14 meeting.

Pullen suggested using the money to work toward a long-term goal of giving raises and getting all staff on one pay scale. Right now they are on two. Johnson said she also preferred a raise over a bonus.

Winkler said if they did that, it would double next year’s budget because it would be a recurring cost. He reminded them those costs include retirement and FICA they’d be committed to providing.
“This money is here now; I can’t guarantee it’ll be there next year,” he said.
After discussing and deciding against capping the bonus for employees at the high end of the pay scale, the Board suggested a flat-rate bonus rather than one based on income.
Winkler said he’d work out the numbers and have them ready for the next meeting.

Salary scale and 2018-19 budget

Winkler showed proposed teacher salaries for both scale A and B.

Scale B, which provides a lower lifetime earnings wage than Scale A, was created in 2012 after the Board of Supervisors cut the school budget by $2.3 million. Any teacher hired after the 2012 budget cut, including 40 new hires that had already signed a contract under Scale A, was put on Scale B. Scale A has 160 teachers on it; Scale B has 120.

Strong emotions continue to surround this issue.

The Board asked Winkler to work up what it would cost to move from Scale B to Scale A the teachers who were added to Scale B when they were recruited under the original scale.
In his presentation, Winkler proposed budget priorities in 2018-19 that amount to $2 million:

  • 1 percent raise for all staff: $100,000
  • Step increase for all staff: $220,000
  • Health insurance increase of 15 percent: $600,000
  • Increase staff (three and one-half teacher positions; seven instructional assistants): $450,000
  • Technology (teacher laptop replacement): $100,000
  • Possible Standards of Quality changes: $200,000
  • Miscellaneous (including band uniforms, increase nurse substitute hours, teacher recertification): $50,000

Analysis of programs
To answer questions from Board members on what different programs cost, Brenda Gilliam, executive director of curriculum, instruction and finance, joined Winkler to present the information.
Abrams Academy serves students whose needs aren’t met in the regular classroom. It costs $70,000 to run Abrams.

When asked if the needs of those students could be met in other ways, Gilliam brought up its success.

“We have one of the state’s highest graduation rates and that’s in part because we have a program like Abrams,” she said.

Fluvanna provides 28 programs that fall under athletics, including debate, golf, football, band, tennis and student government. There are 28 teams across those programs in which 1,237 students take part.

It costs a smidge over half a million dollars to run the activities, which cover anything from coach stipends to bus drivers to paying officials.

Almost $106,000 in activities funds is budgeted. Those pay for equipment, medical training supplies and coaches’ travel costs.

Band boosters raised $7,800 last year; athletic boosters raised $21,300.

The only things students pay or fundraise for are things they’ll keep like t-shirts, socks and bags.

After receiving more than $2.3 million in state transportation funds, it costs Fluvanna County Public Schools $523,510 to run 3,150 students 3,500 miles per day.

Currently there are approximately 50 students per bus.

Winkler presented the Board with ways to save in transportation costs and possible consequences of those savings. Right now, 50 students ride a bus. If buses were consolidated with 60 students per bus:

  • Eight drivers could be eliminated at a savings of $175,000.
  • 560 miles per day would be eliminated at a fuel savings cost of approximately $10,000.
  • Possible consequences of that decision:
  • Longer bus rides for students;
  • Earlier pick-up and later drop-off;
  • Impact on instructional times; and
  • Could result in students from age 4 to 18 on the same bus.

The next meeting on the budget is scheduled for Feb. 7.