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Caroline boards discuss budget priorities

Caroline County school officials will give their operating budget another look and make an effort to prioritize essential needs after the School Board and the Board of Supervisors met jointly Tuesday.

In the proposed 2015 budget, County Administrator Charles M. Culley Jr. allocated $12 million to the school system for operations, which is about $360,000 more than the school system received last year.

But the school system’s request from the county for next year was $2.8 million more than that, so that teacher salary steps could be adjusted, support staff could get raises and other requests could be accommodated.

Floyd Thomas, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, asked Schools Superintendent Greg Killough to work out some numbers and come back with a revised request.

One of the issues school officials noted was that many Caroline teachers leave the district after just a few years, which signifies a retention issue. That is one of the reasons why the school system wants to adjust the teacher salary steps.

Western Caroline District Supervisor Jeff Black challenged Killough, saying the pay for Caroline County teachers is competitive to that of surrounding counties. Black is a high school teacher for Spotsylvania County schools.

The two boards discussed giving some kind of incentive, possibly a salary step increase, to teachers who are on steps five through 10, as a reward for staying with Caroline longer. One objection, from Mattaponi District School Board member Nancy Carson, to that idea was that the other teachers would feel less valued and it would be hard to tell all the teachers that only some would get raises.

Another idea thrown out was to give every staff member in the school system—from bus drivers to teachers to custodians—a percentage raise.

Thomas encouraged Killough to bring back numbers that would show the supervisors and county administrator different options.

“The reality is, we are not going to find $2.8 million like we found the $10,000,” Thomas said at the meeting. “We’re just trying to figure out how much, if that’s something we could come to an agreement, what that could cost.”

The $10,000 Thomas referred to was to hire someone to answer phones part time at the county’s offices.

Culley told the boards that fully funding the school system’s request, as it stands, would require an 18-cent increase on the real estate tax rate.

A 12-cent increase is already proposed, though the supervisors found a way to shave a penny off, making it an 11-cent increase, last week. That would set the real estate rate at 83 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

School Board members Shawn Kelley, Mack Wright and Tinka Harris were not present at the joint work session. Harris called in for part of the meeting.

Following the work session, the Board of Supervisors held its regular meeting, which included a public hearing on the proposed budget and tax rates.

Several parents and teachers in the school system spoke during that hearing in support of the proposed schools budget.

They asked the board to fully fund the proposed schools budget, citing teacher raises, better equipment, ability to retain teachers and other reasons.

Thomas explained after all the comments that to fully fund Killough’s budget, the tax rate would have to increase to 95 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, a nearly 30 percent increase over the current budget.

The current real estate tax rate is 72 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

 

Robyn Sidersky: 540/374-5413

rsidersky@freelancestar.com

 

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