During the School Board’s meeting on February 7, 2017, Schools Superintendent David Sovine presented the Board with his proposed budget for FY18. Dr. Sovine’s proposed budget totals $203.9 million and includes a request for an additional $5.7 million in local funding for the School Operating Fund. He stated that the additional funds being requested are needed to maintain current programs, handle increased student enrollment and begin to address the division’s most critical operational and capital needs. Dr. Sovine’s proposal also includes a request for $3 million for non-recurring capital needs funded through the Capital Projects Fund. He noted that the development of his proposed budget was guided by the School Board’s budget priorities.
Dr. Sovine’s budget request represents a 6.1 percent increase in operating expenditures. In addition, he stated that $3.4 million in requests were cut prior to him presenting his budget. All of the requests that were cut represented items that are needed, but are not critical needs at this time.
Based on Governor McAuliffe’s budget proposal, the school division expects to receive about $3.4 million more in state funding in FY18. An additional $300,000 in federal funding is also expected. Sovine’s proposed budget includes those funds in the School Operating Fund which totals $162.6 million. The proposed $9.4 million increase in the School Operating Fund is comprised of three main components: $3.9 million for baseline adjustments (cost to continue current services and programs), $3.8 million for a salary initiative for all staff and $1.7 million to address instructional and operational needs.
The salary initiative Dr. Sovine proposed is designed to address the School Board’s priority of providing compensation packages that enable the recruitment and retention of high-quality staff. The initiative includes $2.9 million to provide all employees with a step movement on existing pay scales which equates to an average 2.5 percent salary increase divisionwide. The proposed budget also includes an additional $900,000 for targeted enhancements to pay scales that presently fall behind the market. Dr. Sovine added that his proposed budget also includes an additional $60,000 for professional development to support evidence-based instructional practices.
Of the additional $1.7 million requested to address instructional and operational needs, $1.1 million would be used to add new instructional positions. $100,000 would be used to replace equipment and upgrade Internet capacity to support increased Internet usage in instruction. Some of the increased Internet usage is driven by enrollment growth. $200,000 in additional funds for facilities maintenance is also included in the proposed budget while an additional $300,000 is included to purchase three replacement buses. Dr. Sovine stated the school division should be replacing 13 buses annually, but only has funding in the School Operating Fund to replace two each year.
In addition to seeking increased funding for the School Operating Fund, Dr. Sovine requested the county provide $3 million to address capital projects that are not included in the School Operating Fund and not large enough to be considered for the School Construction Fund. Some of the high priority projects that would be addressed with these funds include items such as replacing playground equipment at NREP as well as Armel and Orchard View elementary chools, a roof replacement at Redbud Run Elementary, as well as maintenance and safety/security needs at various locations. $1.4 million would support transportation needs, including the purchase of ten additional school buses while $500,000 would fund replacement computers for students and staff, wireless access points across the division and other technology needs.
Dr. Sovine reviewed all of the other funds included in the total school budget and noted a 10 cent increase in school meal prices is anticipated due to federal pricing formulas.
Following Dr. Sovine’s presentation, the Board convened a budget worksession and Executive Director of Finance Patty Camery provided an overview of the FY18 budget information provided to Board members.