Frederick schools ask for additional funding

Posted: January 23, 2014

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent David Sovine on Wednesday presented his $178.3 million budget, which includes funding for full-day kindergarten and changes in the salary scale for all staff.

The presentation took place during an early afternoon School Board meeting at the FCPS Administration Building.

Sovine’s fiscal year 2015 budget includes a school operating fund of $143.6 million — up from the current $134 million operating budget. He will seek an increase of $8.5 million in local funding to support his proposed budget, with additional revenue coming from an increase in state money.

The operating fund increase would allow the division to continue its current programs ($1 million), pay for the state-mandated increase in employer payments to the Virginia Retirement System ($2.2 million), fund a projected 5 percent increase in employer health plan premiums ($500,000), implement full-day kindergarten in the fall ($1.7 million) and implement a salary initiative that would provide a one-step movement on the salary scales for all staff ($4.2 million).

“It does not fully accomplish what is needed for our staff, but it does help to address some, not all, areas where we lag behind,” Sovine said of the salary increase.

The salary initiative would increase the step value on the teacher’s scale from $1,182 to $1,350, while the step value for all other staff would remain the same.

The beginning teacher salary would remain unchanged at $40,000.

To begin full-day kindergarten, the division will have to hire 27.5 additional teaching positions for its projected 859 students.

“We are the last school division in the state to implement any form of a full-day program for kindergarten students,” Sovine said. “We are excited to begin this program in the fall of this year.”

Sovine’s FY15 budget, however, does not encompass all division needs — omitting funding for replacement technology and school buses and facility restoration.

The division has been unable to adhere to its recommended replacement cycles for technology and buses. As a result, nearly 1,800 computers have outlasted their replacement cycle, and the division is using 22 buses that have traveled more than 250,000 miles and 45 that are 16 years old or older.

According to Sovine, stimulus money and one-time funds have been used to buy a few buses in recent years, but the division should be replacing 13 buses every year (at a cost of $1.3 million).

“We’re now going on six years without a strong replacement cycle,” he said.

Assistant Superintendent for Administration Al Orndorff said the maintenance staff is working hard to keep buses running and on time, however, and he assured the School Board that students were not in danger.

“I would not question the safety of our units,” he said.

Chairman Stuart Wolk called the budget “realistic, but modest.”

A School Board public hearing will be held on Feb. 18. The Board of Supervisors is set to adopt the budget on April 9.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com