Clarke School Board hears budget requests

Posted: January 16, 2013

The Winchester Star

Michael Murphy

BERRYVILLE — The Clarke County School Board Tuesday heard staff recommendations for additional expenditures in the fiscal year 2014 budget it is currently crafting.

The current school operating budget is $20,542,386. Recommended additions include a 4 percent pay raise for employees, nine additional staff positions and new textbooks and buses. There will also likely be an increase in health insurance costs.

“We do have needs,” said Superintendent of Schools Michael Murphy, “and they continue to go unfilled in these difficult times of austerity.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell has already suggested the state offer teachers a 2 percent pay raise, but the proposal calls for localities to match the funding to help pay for the increase.

While the county’s teachers received a 2 percent boost under the 2012-13 budget, Murphy said that money they had to contribute to the Virginia Retirement System brought the actual pay hike down to 1.6 percent.

Because of other changes outside the system’s control, Murphy said the school employees are making the same, if not less, than they were five years ago.

The division also wants to increase the per-day rate of pay for substitute teachers.

“We’re having increasing difficulty in attracting substitutes to the division,” Murphy said. The recommendation calls for bumping instruction assistants from $60 to $80 per day and licensed substitutes from $80 to $100.

The nine new positions, from art and science teachers to secretarial support to mechanical and custodial help, would add $304,882 in budget expenditures.

Murphy also recommended putting $36,409 into the budget to partner with Valley Health to double the size of its Certified Nursing Assistant program, which now has 10 students. Valley Health will provide $22,500 for the program.

Murphy said the schools usually plan for a 10 percent increase in health insurance costs. Last year, the county’s cost was less than that, but he said neighboring Frederick County got hit with an 18 percent increase.

Staff recommendations include $178,000 for new textbooks and $374,000 for capital projects like uniforms, buses and new wiring for D.G. Cooley Elementary School.

What will happen with state funding is anyone’s guess, Murphy said. Already, more than 100 bills have been filed in Richmond related to public education, and many could impact local schools financially, he said.

Attending the meeting in the Clarke County High School library were Chairwoman Elizabeth Leffey and School Board members Charles “Chip” Schutte, Janet Creager Alger, Barbara Lee and James Brinkmeier.

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com