School Board approves $55 million budget

Will request $22 million from supervisors

By Heather Michon

The Fluvanna County School Board adopted a $55 million budget for Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) and will request $22,269,388 in local funding.

The 3-2 vote to approve came at the end of a two-hour discussion on Wednesday (Feb. 28).

School budgets are constructed from local, state, and federal funding sources, with the biggest portions coming from county and state governments. The Board of Supervisors includes the school budget as part of the county budget, and they ultimately decide how much of the requested funding they can provide.

This year, the School Board will request just $340,862 more than the supervisors approved in FY24. That’s an increase of 1.55 percent.

Still, much of their debate focused on how much supervisors will be willing to give. “This is going to be a very different budget year,” Chair Andrew Pullen (Columbia) warned.

The biggest debate of the night revolved around health insurance. Rates are expected to increase by nine percent in the coming year, adding $480,000 to the budget.

For the past several years, the School Board has worked to avoid passing those increases on to staff, but some questioned how long they can go without increasing staff share.

As an experiment, members asked Finance Director Brenda Gilliam to model a plan that would pass $160,000 on to employees to see what the impact would be on each insurance tier.

She found monthly premiums would increase as little as $1.38 for a single payer on a high deductible plan all the way up to $120 for a family on a $500 deductible plan. Many employees on family plans already pay between $870-997 per month.

“If you take a $53,000 salary and you back out $12,000 of it and then apply a tax rate in the 40 percent [range], I don’t know how you afford rent, to be honest,” said James Kelley (Palmyra).

Charles Rittenhouse (Cunningham) argued that $120 a month wasn’t much of an increase and questioned how many single-income households were on the family plan.

Both Kelley and Andre Key (Rivanna) disagreed with Rittenhouse about the impact, with Key noting increases would hit the lowest-paid employees the hardest.

Danny Reed (Fork Union), whose wife works for the school system and uses FCPS health insurance, was torn between a desire to hold staff harmless and to produce a fair budget.

“It’s my biggest struggle with our budget right now,” he said. He saw no “win-win” and wondered, “How much can with go with to the county Board of Supervisors and ask for?”

Kelley said his approach with the budget was always to articulate the schools’ needs, make the argument, and “then we get to come back and shape our budget based on what they’re able to contribute.” 

A majority of members decided to ask for the full $480,000 and only pass expenses on to staff if they absolutely had to do so.

Some items approved in the budget included $11,000 in funding for extracurricular clubs and increased pay for substitute teachers. Fluvanna currently has the lowest daily rates for subs in the area.

They also included $20,000 in funding for Securely, a program that allows teachers to monitor student laptop screens. Superintendent Peter Gretz said teachers had specifically advocated for the program.

To offset costs, the budget will eliminate recess monitors at the elementary schools for a savings of $120,000 a year. Three high school teaching positions may be eliminated through attrition, and some of that money will be used to hire new teachers at the elementary level. Student enrollment at the high school has dropped slightly, while the elementary population is increasing.     

After some debate, they decided not to eliminate two counseling positions and to retain a school technology position.

Left up in the air was a $30,000 request for a population survey, which Gretz said was “desperately needed and long overdue.” The survey would provide an in-depth analysis of how the school population would grow in the next few years, which would allow the schools to start planning ahead of time.

Kelley and Gretz both advocated for the survey in FY24 but could not secure approval.

“I’ll be completely honest: I may be the chair, but I would vote no on this budget,” said Pullen.

He was true to his word, joining Rittenhouse in opposition when the motion was finally made.

Still, he assured the members, “It doesn’t mean I’m not going to do the Board’s work on behalf of you all.”

In their last order of business for the evening, they approved their own salaries for the year. Pullen will receive $8,140 in annual pay, with $6,680 for each of the other four positions. These rates are unchanged from 2023.

Pullen and Gretz will present their budget to the Board of Supervisors on March 6.

Related Posts

dewi88 cuanslot dragon77 cuan138 enterslots rajacuan megahoki88 ajaib88 warung168 fit188 pusatwin pusatwin slot tambang88 mahkota88 slot99 emas138