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Spotsy School Board gets glimpse of budget

By PAMELA GOULD

Spotsylvania County Schools Superintendent Scott Baker is recommending the school division give employees a 2 percent cost-of-living increase and restore 14 teaching positions despite facing a nearly $8.2 million shortfall in funding.

In a proposal Baker said addresses needs, not wants, he is also proposing restoring seven bus drivers and hiring an internal auditor.

Those four items cost $3.2 million, according to the fiscal 2014 budget proposal he presented to the School Board at Monday’s meeting.

One of the biggest challenges the division faces is an anticipated health insurance rate increase of 10.1 percent, which costs $3.1 million.

He said the $8.2 million shortfall also fails to fund two new special-education teaching positions and other special-education needs that cost $1.7 million.

The final issue listed on the shortfall is $200,000 needed to cover a nearly 

2 percent increase in state retirement costs for non-professional staff.

Baker noted that the division is in its fifth year of declining funding. He said the division’s budget has been reduced by roughly 10 percent since 2009, which accounts for a decrease over that time of more than $40 million. During that period, he also noted, the division cut 320 positions.

At Monday’s meeting, Baker recognized the division’s Budget Advisory Committee, a group of about 50 people from within and outside the division. That committee had two top priorities for the budget that begins July 1: maintaining or lowering class sizes and giving employees a raise in pay.

But Baker noted the challenges of that when he spelled out the funding cuts he’s seeing. The governor is proposing funding a portion of the 2 percent pay hike for teachers, but just for one year. The state’s contribution would provide 37.5 percent of the cost, or $1.2 million of the $3.2 million needed to give that raise to all of the division’s 3,027 employees. Spotsylvania would need to find other funding to cover the remaining $2 million.

Baker noted that the school division has received a declining share of county revenue since 2006, dropping over that period from 56.19 percent of county revenue to 49.64 percent for the current school year. That is despite an actual funding increase from $180 million to $232 million.

The budget proposal is based on school receiving the same $114.8 million from the county as it is receiving this year, Chief Financial Officer LaShahn Gaines said.

Baker’s proposal is a 2.6 percent increase over this year’s budget despite expecting no increase in county funding. Revenue projections presented by Gaines show a 1.2 percent increase in state funding but an 18.8 percent drop in federal revenue.

Baker noted that “school safety and security must be at the forefront” of school division operations, but he has no specific items toward that effort in his budget. He said he is monitoring bills before the General Assembly that could address school security and that he may be returning to the board with requests in that area.

Instruction accounts for 65.3 percent of Baker’s proposal, or $176.5 million of his proposed $270.5 operating budget.

The board is scheduled to hold a budget work session on Friday.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com

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