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Spotsy schools seek $1.9M more for 2015 budget

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The Spotsylvania School Board requested nearly $2 million more in local funding from the county’s Board of Supervisors for its 2015 budget during Tuesday evening’s joint work session.

That additional money, said School Board Chairman James Meyer, will allow the division to maintain, not enhance, the instruction offered.

The proposed increase brings the total sought from the county to $116.7 million, up from the baseline contribution of $114.8 million.

The $1.9 million in additional local funds would go toward funding a state-mandated retirement services increase, which will cost the division $22.2 million in 2015.

The $1.9 million shortfall, though, is the lowest since 2009, according to Meyer.

The $275.4 million proposed 2015 schools budget sets aside $4.7 million in funds for the step increase and a 1 percent cost-of-living increase for staff. The step will be the first for the division’s employees since 2008.

The budget also maintains the current number of staff members for the first time in six years, according to Superintendent Scott Baker.

During the question-and-answer portion of the meeting, Supervisor Paul Trampe asked whether the retirement services increase could be funded through a one-time allocation. LaShahn Gaines, chief financial officer of the division, said that would not be possible since retirement services is a recurring cost.

Supervisor Tim McLaughlin asked the division to find other areas in the budget that could be paid for by one-time funding, such as instructional materials, since the retirement services increase is mandatory.

The School Board approved the 2015 schools budget with a 6–1 vote last Monday.

Member Bill Blaine cast the sole dissenting vote, saying he could not endorse the budget since he is apprehensive about the decisions that will need to be made if the budget gap is not locally funded.

Budget drivers this year include the salary raises, benefits increases totaling $31.2 million, special education costs totaling $25.3 million and utility costs totaling $11.6 million.

Meyer reminded the county that the state lowered funding by $3.5 million to the division after revising the Local Composite Index, which measures a locality’s ability to pay education costs.

“This index adjustment assumed the county has the ability to increase its funding commitment for schools,” he said. “The School Board has done everything it can do … without cutting instructional personnel or instructional programs.”

Board of Supervisors Chairman David Ross asked if there is any way to challenge the index and requested that staff find out of that is possible.

“I would want to know how they think we’re capable of paying because it doesn’t feel that way from up here,” Ross said.

Meyer also noted that the division’s number of students is expected to grow in the next few years.

Supervisor Chris Yakabouski asked the School Board to bring back costs associated with growth in future years, so the supervisors can plan ahead.

Last year, the supervisors declined to provide an additional $3.2 million in local money for salary increases, causing the School Board to then omit the 2 percent cost-of-living raises originally sought for teachers in 2014.

The next time the boards will meet will be March 25 for a joint work session.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976

lestes@freelancestar.com

 

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