School Board approves $53.7 million budget request

Request includes raises for teachers, bus drivers

By Heather Michon

The Fluvanna County School Board approved a $53.7 million budget for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) during its meeting on Wednesday night (Feb. 8).

This includes a request to the county to provide $22,401,764 in local funding – close to $2.7 million more than approved in the FY23 budget.

Two priorities dominated the development of this year’s budget: creating a pay scheme that makes Fluvanna County competitive with neighboring localities and providing students with more behavioral and emotional support.  

Superintendent Peter Gretz said the staff were tasked with surveying the pay scales in Fluvanna, Louisa, Goochland, Albemarle, and Charlottesville and coming up with a plan that would bring Fluvanna to the midpoint of the five localities.

The formula included in the final budget packages would place Fluvanna just below the median, providing increases of between 9.85-11.35 percent depending on position, current pay band, and years of service.

Later in the discussion, Board member Perrie Johnson (Fork Union) said she would support the plan, but it was “less generous than ideal.”

“To have people on a four out of five-basis compared to competing divisions? That’s my main objection, four out of five is not great for our county,” she added.

Members worked through a list of additional requests, ranging from increasing the pay for activity bus drivers to $20 an hour to creating a position for a district-wide coordinator of mental health. 

Four of the ten items requested had a consensus among at least three of the four members present for the meeting, with the approved items adding a little over $200,000 to the total budget. Board member Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) said he agreed that they needed to pay teachers a competitive salary, but “this is way above our means, to ask the county for over $2.5 million dollars.”  

Chair James Kelley (Palmyra) told a group of visiting students that he views the budget process as “an enormous puzzle. We have all these pieces, and everyone is interested in different pieces.” Figuring out how to put it all together “makes for some long evenings” each winter.

The final vote was 3-1, with Rittenhouse voting no. Andrew Pullen (Columbia) was not present for the meeting.

The approved budget package will be presented to the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 15. Supervisors ultimately decide how much the county will fund when they pass their finalized county budget in April.

“Do I believe that the county is going to give us all $2.7 million this year in order to fully fund the schools? I don’t know,” said Kelley. “Do they have the capacity? I’m not sure. But I do believe that sitting on this board, our job is to articulate what we need to run the division, and that includes paying living wages and competitive salaries to staff.”

Other matters

Aside from the budget, board members also: 

Approved a cafeteria budget for FY24 of $2,125,775. This included a $100,000 increase in the food budget to counter rising prices. 

Approved the schedule for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Extended a policy that allows teachers with COVID to quarantine without having to use regular sick leave.

Went through a first read of their code of conduct. A second read and a vote will take place in March. 

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