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School raises bring support

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Massaponax High School counselor Kaleen Muldoon had a straightforward message for the Spotsylvania County School Board at Monday night’s public budget hearing. “Morale is a huge concern,” she said.

Muldoon thanked Superintendent Scott Baker for the proposed step raises and cost-of-living increases for staff included in his 2015 schools budget and recounted how her own resolve has declined over the seven years she has worked for the division.

She said without step raises since 2008, she has had to consider working in another division or changing careers to make ends meet.

“I can’t help but feel unappreciated and taken for granted [without raises],” she said. “I wish I didn’t have to feel this way.”

Muldoon was just one of the number of staff and community members who showed up to support the budget, filling the room past its available seating capacity and causing many to stand.

The $275.4 million proposed 2015 schools budget, which is set for approval by the School Board on Feb. 10, sets aside $4.7 million for a step increase and a 1 percent cost-of-living increase for staff. The board will also meet for a budget work session on Thursday before voting on the proposed budget.

Muldoon was just one of the staff members who spoke at Monday’s meeting.

Sheri Busse, also a Massaponax counselor, shared with the board that her husband had to leave the division for Prince William County to cope with repaying their student loans. “Teachers, myself included, do not feel valued,” she said.

Spotsylvania Education Association President Peter Pfotenhauer said that though the circumstances surrounding funding are out of the School Board’s control, he hopes the board will continue to support its staff when dealing with the people who hold the purse strings—the Board of Supervisors and state government.

“Please continue to prioritize your employees,” he said. “After six years without a meaningful raise, we deserve better. We deserve that step and COLA.”

Board members expressed support for the proposed budget during their comments.

Member Dawn Shelley of Chancellor District said she plans on working “110 percent to making this budget work.”

Bill Blaine of Salem District implored those who spoke to the board to take the same comments to the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors at its tax rate public hearing on April 3.

During the meeting, the board also addressed the issue of cuts in athletics and a suggestion that they look at sports like swimming for possible reductions, brought up by concerned citizens. Board Chairman James Meyer said swimming will not be cut.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976