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City schools: Funding increase sought
Heath asks for extra $576K

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Martinsville City Schools Superintendent Pam Heath would like more local money for the school system in the coming fiscal year.

Heath’s fiscal 2014-15 budget proposal requests a local appropriation of $6,936,601 for operating funds, an increase of $576,070 over the current fiscal year.

The proposal also requests $160,000 for capital improvements to replace some school buses.

Heath presented her budget proposal to the Martinsville School Board at its meeting Monday night.

The proposed operating budget calls for adding a total of 11 personnel: eight teachers and three paraprofessionals. Seven of those positions are because of state mandates, Heath said. Those seven positions include an elementary teacher because of an increase in the number of students, and three special education teachers and three special education paraprofessionals because of special education caseloads.

Heath also proposed reinstating the JROTC program, for which she cited strong community support. The annual cost of the program is estimated at $150,000. The program would have one teacher the first year, but there would be startup costs. A second teacher would be added the second year, but the estimated operating costs would still be about $150,000, considering startup costs paid the first year, officials said.

Officials said the minimum number of students needed for the JROTC program is 10 percent of the student population (say, about 80 students based on the current number of students in grades 8-12). However, that 10 percent minimum might be negotiable, officials said.

Heath also proposed implementing the Teachers for Tomorrow program, which would require one teacher. It is a “grow your own” teacher recruitment model. It was recommended by the school division’s Minority Recruitment Task Force. Heath said the program would be good for developing not only minority teachers but other teachers as well. Officials said 69 students have indicated they would be interested in such a program.

Heath also recommended implementing an elementary transitional day program, with one teacher. The program would serve elementary students with significant challenges, such as behavioral issues, but who do not necessarily need to be classified as special education students, Heath said.

She also proposed adding a technology support technician because of increasing demands on the current technology staff, which Heath said is “very small.”

“The more (technology) devices you have, the more technical support you need,” she said.

The budget proposal absorbs $112,329 in special education federal funds lost due to budget sequestration. More than $30,000 of that is made up by reducing non-personnel expenses. The remaining approximately $79,000 is part of the $576,070 in additional local operating funds being requested.

Anther reason for the proposed increase in local operating funds is the costs associated with implementation of the Affordable Care Act because additional employees are eligible for enrollment, Heath said.

A “very bright spot” is that health insurance premiums will increase only 1.92 percent, she said, describing that as “unheard of.” She said employees will absorb the cost.

The budget proposal continues the school division’s focus on “instructional programming and delivery to ensure all students are ‘college and career ready.’” That includes promoting “21st century student learning outcomes, (supporting) increasing role of education and business partnerships, (supporting) career and technical education programs (and supporting) virtual and blended learning models of instruction,” according to the proposal.

That also includes continuing the focus on: the Academy for Engineering & Technology and dual enrollment programs with New College Institute, dual enrollment and the Accelerated College Education program with Patrick Henry Community College, Advanced Placement and other advanced course options, Governor’s School, and the NASA SEMAA program.

The budget proposal maintains extracurricular programs (arts and athletics), pre-school programs for 3- and 4-year-olds, and school safety initiatives.

In addition to the local appropriation request of $6,936,601, other sources of revenue include $14,846,052 in anticipated state revenue and $651,218 in other revenue sources, according to the proposed budget.

Heath said her proposed budget is based on the governor’s proposed budget and could change somewhat depending on the final state budget approved. She said Martinsville City Schools would get $12,162 more under the House version of the budget and $93,452 more under the Senate version of the budget than under the governor’s proposal.

The school board will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at its meeting April 7, which is a changed meeting date.

 

 
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