Fredericksburg City Beat

This blog includes news about City Hall, city schools and other 22401 news.

Pamela Gould reports on City Hall. You can reach her at 540-735-1972 or Robyn Sidersky reports on city schools. You can reach her at 540-374-5413 or

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Their words: paying teachers

There’s never room to print everything that City Council members say at meetings, but as a voter, you might want to keep an eye on what your representative is saying. So periodically, on those issues that every single council member weighs in on, I’ll try to provide a fuller version of their words here.


Last night was one of those instances. Before their meeting, council members sat down with members of the city School Board. The schools have requested $24 million from the city for next year’s budget. That would be a 14 percent increase over what they got this year. The city manager has recommended giving the schools $23.2 million.


Superintendent Dale Sander said the increase in city funding would allow the schools to implement what he sees as the first phase of a multi-year effort to make city teacher salaries more comparable with those in Stafford and Spotsylvania counties. “We don’t know if we’ll ever catch them, but we need to put ourselves in a position that it’s not worth people leaving,” Sander said. “That’s what our budget is about.”


No one talked much last night about the 11 percent real estate tax increase that’s been proposed in the budget, but every council member was quick to express support for teachers, while some added that police and firefighters need the same attention. Here they are in their own words (as much of them as I could jot down):


Tom Tomzak: “There’s no doubt in my mind that the teachers deserve more money. We have the same problem with our police and fire and other city workers. … Deserved as it is, it puts significant pressure on the citizens of Fredericksburg to come up with more money. You all deserve it, but I would like to see it phased in [in a way that is] less anxiety-provoking.”


Kerry Devine – “We made the decision to build the schools because we wanted to invest in the future of our schools. … At the time, teachers kind of understood that they were taking a back seat to what was going on. Teachers were willing to take that back seat … with the understanding that they would be brought along at some point, and I think this is that point.” [*Devine is a teacher in the city school system, so following Virginia’s conflict-of-interests law, she declared that interest at the beginning of the meeting, stating that she believes she can approach the issue objectively.]


Marvin Dixon – “In too many instances, our teachers are being asked to not only teach, but to mentor, mother, father, [and otherwise provide what the family at home does not]. Our student body in the city is at times a difficult student body. … I will do everything I can in my role to help support your request.”


Debby Girvan – “I’m glad to see a two- to three-year plan. I wish it could be faster. …This is a special group, they have such a direct impact on our future. … The cost to recruit and retain teachers is a lot higher than it ever has been. … I’m not looking at a choice between teachers and police and fire. We should do better for them, too. … I support anything we can do to aggressively close this salary gap.”


Matt Kelly – “Education has always been important to the city.” Kelly said he sees three “core areas” where the city spends money: basic services, public safety and education. He said the city might have to cut back on spending that’s not in those areas in order to do what it needs to for teachers and other workers who provide core services.


George Solley – “You get to a point where either you have to work hard to make something work, or you are telling yourself you will accept a second-class organization. I will work as hard as I can to find sufficient funding.”


Hashmel Turner – “We need to keep our teachers’ salaries compatible with our neighboring localities. … Yes, we do at some time have to decide we have to do what’s necessary. … I believe the citizens will work with us to see to it that we will meet the budget to move the city forward.”