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Schools forgo raises
For 2013-14 fiscal year
Friday, March 22, 2013
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
The superintendent’s proposed budget for Henry County Schools for fiscal 2013-14 requests an increase of about $266,343 or 1.61 percent in county funding.
It includes funding for three additional school resource officers but no raises for school employees.
Superintendent Jared Cotton presented the proposal at a special meeting of the county school board Thursday.
“I deeply regret that I will not be including a raise for employees in this year’s budget recommendation. However, I want to emphasize the fact that each of our employees has certainly earned and deserves a raise,” Cotton stated.
The budget proposed by Gov. Bob McDonnell included funding for raises only for Standards of Quality (SOQ) instructional positions, not all public school employees, Cotton said. “For example, the SOQ funds only half a principal position in an elementary school with less than 300 students. The proposed SOQ raise does not include support staff and in most cases only funds a raise for one teacher for every 25-30 students.”
SOQ positions include teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, instructional aides, principals and assistant principals. Participation in the raises is optional but requires a local match to receive the state funding, according to the Office of the Governor.
“If we provide a raise for some employees, this would create inequities across the school division,” Cotton said. “If Henry County Public Schools included a 2 percent raise for all staff, the state would fund $448,996 for SOQ instructional positions only, and we would need an additional amount of approximately $537,000 to fund the raises for the remaining positions.”
“If we decided to fund a raise for all staff, we would need to eliminate positions and/or programs to secure the necessary funding to do so. Neither of these are viable options” for the county school division, Cotton said.
He also pointed out that in the governor’s executive amendments to the proposed budget, McDonnell “noted that if state revenues continue to decrease, he will require a downward revision. If this happens, the $448,996 will not be provided to HCPS to support a raise. Unfortunately, we won’t know if this is the case until after July 1, 2013.”
Raises represent an ongoing or recurring cost to the school division, so it cannot use any savings or carry-forward funds from the previous year to cover them because the savings are not guaranteed from year to year, Cotton said.
The proposed budget includes total revenues of $71,539,943, 1.86 percent more than the total revenues of $70,232,811 in the budget the county school board approved in spring of 2012. Upon final approval of the governor’s budget in May 2012, Henry County Schools were given additional funding of $446,280, which increased the division’s total revenues to $70,679,091 for fiscal 2012-13.
The $71,539,943 in total revenues in Cotton’s proposed budget includes $43,908,705 in state revenues, $9,653,000 in federal/state grant programs, $1,134,000 in other funds and $16,844,238 in county funds.
The $43,908,705 in state funds is an increase of 2.19 percent or $940,789 compared with the budget approved by the school board in spring 2012. However, the increase is $494,509 when allowing for the additional state funds the school division received after the governor’s budget was approved.
The $266,343 proposed increase in county funding is 1.61 percent more than the $16,577,895 in county revenues which the county school board approved in spring 2012.
“While a raise for staff is not included in this budget recommendation, it is important to note that we are developing an RFP (request for proposal) to look at all salaries in HCPS,” Cotton said. “We plan to include salaries for teachers, administrators and classified staff in this study.
“We continue to have challenges with recruiting teachers, especially for upper-level mathematics and science courses. In addition, we want to look at stipends for coaches and school sponsors through the salary study. Findings from this study will help us in our efforts to be more competitive in recruiting and retaining high-quality staff.”
School division officials also are looking into revising the current teacher pay salary scale “to more appropriately reflect our salaries as we were not able to include a step increase in FY2013 or the upcoming FY2014 school year,” Cotton said.
Ridgeway District school board member Francis Zehr said that funding for stipends for coaches for athletic and academic extracurricular activities was cut in 2010-11 and that should be restored before raises are given.
Board Chairman Joe DeVault, member at-large; Collinsville District school board member Kathy Rogers; and Iriswood District school board member Curtis Millner Sr. all said they wish a raise could be given but they feel there is insufficient funding.
Millner said that if the school division were to receive significant funding that it doesn’t expect, the school board should very seriously consider giving a one-time bonus to employees.
The budget also includes funds to contract with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office to provide three additional school resource officers to cover elementary schools. The school division now contracts with the sheriff’s office for three school resource officers and a portion of a supervisor to provide security at county schools, said Dawn Lawson, the school division’s chief financial officer.
The proposed increase in the number of school resource officers stems from concerns following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Cotton said. A gunman fatally shot 26 people, including 20 students, in December in Newtown, Conn.
On sequestration (or mandated spending cuts in many federal programs), Cotton said, “We have been told to estimate a 5 to 5.2 percent cut to Title I and Title VI-B for special education.”
Rogers said the public needs to understand that if federal funding is cut for mandated services, the school division still has to come up with funds to provide the services.
Sequestration also could impact the school division’s Qualified School Construction Bond federal interest subsidy (for the Magna Vista improvement project), according to Cotton and Lawson. That means the school division could have to pay a portion of the interest, Lawson said.
The school board will have a special meeting at 1 p.m. March 28 to vote on approving the budget. The meeting will be in the Summerlin Meeting Room on the first floor of the Henry County Administration Building.
Blackberry District school board member Rudy Law, who had a death in his family, and Horsepasture District school board member Terri Flanagan did not attend Thursday’s meeting.