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City school board expects state funding to stay level
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
State funding to Martinsville City Schools is expected to be “essentially level” in fiscal year 2014 under Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposed budget amendments.
Schools Superintendent Pam Heath presented a budget outlook to the Martinsville School Board at its meeting Monday night at the Municipal Building. She did not present any figure-specific budget projections.
She noted there still are unknowns, including possible sequestration (or across-the-board federal spending cuts), which Congress put off; and health insurance costs (regular renewal rates and the impact of evolving health care reform regulations).
Also unknown is Virginia’s waiver from provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (No Child Left Behind). Another unknown is new legislation that might be adopted by the Virginia General Assembly, including proposed policy changes in teacher contract law, virtual schools and potential impact on funding, and home-schooled students’ participation in public school athletics, according to Heath.
Another variable is Virginia Retirement System contributions. The biennial budget adopted during last session required employees to pay 5 percent of earnings toward their VRS retirement. Localities are required to match with a 5 percent raise. School divisions/localities were given a choice to implement all at once or over a five-year period; for example, 1 percent each year with a matching 1 percent raise, Heath said.
“Sixty-five percent of school divisions implemented the full 5 percent. We opted to implement 1 percent. This has had a negative impact on teacher recruitment,” Heath said.
Martinsville Schools could continue implementing the VRS 5 percent requirement in 1 percent annual increments, move to the full 5 percent, or move to 3-4 percent, according to the budget outlook.
Other considerations in developing a budget include: block/modified block schedule impact on staffing; increasing regulatory environment impact on staff; having a salary scale to attract and retain excellent teachers; and the impact of the earlier school calendar on energy costs, Heath said.
She said the governor’s proposed state’s share of a proposed 2 percent salary increase for all Standards of Quality-funded instructional positions is contingent on the General Assembly passing the Educator Fairness Act (which some people refer to as the Teaching Excellence Act). It calls for reform in areas of teacher probationary status, relationship between performance evaluations and contracts, and the grievance process, she said.
The proposed 2 percent raise does not cover all instructional positions, she said, explaining that Martinsville Schools and other school divisions throughout Virginia employ more instructional personnel than required under SOQ.
She also said the proposed 2 percent raise is intended to be incentive funds and is not guaranteed over time. Also, a local match would be required if the school division decided to accept the state’s share of the 2 percent raise if it is approved, she said.
In other business, Travis Clemons, the school division’s executive director of finance and development, gave an update on renovations at Martinsville High School:
• G Building (science and second floor): Workers have begun the self-contained special education section, and the masonry is 70 percent complete. Sprinkler piping in G, both floors, is in. In the science wing, the mechanical/electrical/plumbing inspection is set for this Friday. Lights and ceiling are completed in the stairwell. Science lab doors were shipped on Jan. 10, and arrival is expected Jan. 18.
• F (the rear hexagonal pod): Demolition in the commons is almost complete. Exposed steel columns are being re-enclosed.
• M (new construction on front of the school): Workers are finishing steel settings this week, and decking will commence next week. Workers are continuing to prep for slab at grade level on the bottom portion.
• A-B-L (basement mechanical; cafeteria; commons): Hot-water pumps have been installed and are working. Cold-water pumps have been installed. Welding should be completed by Friday.
Bill Manning, chairman of the school board, said that he and Robert Williams, vice chairman, recently toured the new science classrooms, which Manning called “awesome.” Williams said students “will be happy” with them, and he said the new science classrooms are a great improvement over the old facilities.
Heath said when the science lab doors are installed, the floors are waxed and some other touchup is done, the public will be given an opportunity to see the rooms. A date for that has not been scheduled.
Manning praised Blair Construction Co. of Gretna. The school board awarded the contract to Blair Construction in June 2012 to renovate Martinsville High School.