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Schools discuss security, possible staff raises

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Some local school system officials said Monday they are in the process of studying or have not yet studied state House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance Committee budget proposals.

Jared Cotton, superintendent of Henry County Schools, said school division officials are analyzing the budget proposals.

He expressed support for increased funding for school security that is included in the budget proposals but indicated more money is needed.

The House budget establishes a five-year $30 million fund to help school divisions buy equipment to enhance security in the wake of December’s shooting that killed 20 children and six staff at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., according to The Associated Press. That would allow localities to submit competitive bids for grants as high as $100,000 each to beef up campus safety and security measures. Local governments would have to provide a match of at least one-fourth of the state grant, the AP reported.

In contrast, the Senate budget provides only an additional $1 million for school resources officers and $125,000 to improve school emergency-response training, the AP reported.

Roger Morris, superintendent of Patrick County Schools, said he had not yet reviewed the budget proposals.

He said representatives from that school division, law enforcement, mental health, social services and other agencies are meeting to discuss how to improve security. More school resource officers and other improvements to school security are needed, he said.

Both budget proposals include funds for 2 percent raises for public school teachers and support staff, but they are optional for localities willing to match the state’s raise with 2 percent boosts of their own, according to The AP.

Joe DeVault, at-large member on the Henry County School Board and chairman of the board, said, “We need to see if we can come up with matching funds for raises.”

On another matter, Morris said he thinks the state needs to restore its share of funding that has been cut to Patrick County Schools in recent years. He estimates that between $2.5 million and $3 million in state and federal funding has been cut to the school division since 2008, with most of that in state funding.

Attempts to reach Pam Heath, superintendent of Martinsville City Schools, were unsuccessful.

Kathy Rogers, executive director of Piedmont Arts, said the budget proposals call for level funding for the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Piedmont Arts got about $15,000, or about 4 percent of Piedmont Arts’ budget, from the Virginia Commission for the Arts last year, she said.

Rogers said she hopes the state budget proposals “will have no impact” on Piedmont Arts’ budget. “Nothing is ever for sure. There are more arts organizations competing for dollars,” she said.


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