Budget tight for city schools

Posted: January 15, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The city’s public school officials are looking at a tight fiscal year in 2014 that will see increased student enrollment and a shortage of state dollars.

The division’s FY14 budget was discussed at a Winchester School Board meeting Monday at Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart Elementary School.

The budget currently has projected revenues at $48,975,795 and expenditures at $52,175,377 — a $3,199,582 difference that will have to be eliminated.

Monday’s discussion centered on Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposed amendments to the 2012-2014 biennial budget.

Using the governor’s budget, Winchester Public Schools would receive $680,000 in additional state revenue — $366,785 of that provided because of an expected higher average daily membership — from 3,950 students last year to an expected 4,050 in FY14.

McDonnell also proposed that school divisions and the state share in a 2 percent salary increase for all funded Standards of Quality (SOQ) teachers and instructional positions, including guidance counselors, librarians, instructional aides, principals and assistant principals.

Participation would be optional under the proposal, but for a division to receive state funding, a local match is required, the amount of which is driven by the composite index of the area.

Among the Standards of Quality are staffing ratio requirements/standards that schools should follow to maintain good instruction. The reality, however, is that many Virginia schools hire beyond the SOQ requirements, and those employees would be considered non-SOQ funded personnel and would be funded entirely by the localities.

The state would provide about $193,000 for the 2 percent salary increase in Winchester, while the division would have to match $495,834 based on the composite index. To give all employees a 2 percent raise, the division would have to pay an additional $179,166.

That leaves $184,000 from the additional $680,000 in state revenues to fund all other budget requests. Currently, there are $1.9 million in total personnel requests, including 22 requests for new teachers.

“Disappointing comes to mind,” said Superintendent Rick Leonard of the governor’s budget.

Leonard called the salary increase a “political maneuver.”

“It burdens a locality to find ways to match that,” he said.

Although the increase in state money is good, Leonard said much of that is for the increase in students and the salary initiative.

“I don’t see a lot of fairness here,” Leonard said. “It’s a small step in the right direction but not a very gigantic leap.”

The governor also proposed cutting Cost of Competing Adjustment for support positions in fiscal year 2014 in Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties.

This will cost Winchester $30,000.

The division’s budget will be approved in April.

Present at the meeting were Chairperson John Bishop, Vice-Chair Melvin Thomas and members Richard Bell, Vincent DiBenedetto, Cynthia Ford, Allyson Pate, Sharion Poston, Erica Truban and Mary Margaret Wise.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com