WINCHESTER — Though the future of the local economy remains hazy amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Winchester School Board on Monday unanimously approved a $93,130,436 budget for fiscal year 2021— a $20,249,022 increase from this year's budget.

The general operations budget is $60,832,495. The average daily membership used to gauge the needs of the division is 4,160 students.  

For revenue, the division expects to receive $5,340,988 in federal funding, $28,881,020 in state funding and $31,951,475 in local funding.  

In the approved budget, the School Board requested an additional $570,005 in local funds from City Council, Winchester Public Schools Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum said during a School Board business meeting Monday. 

"Right now this budget is based on numbers from two weeks ago," he said. "As we know, two weeks ago was a whole new world."

He added that he assumed the division would receive about $1.7 million in additional revenue from the state. Now, with the coronavirus and school closures lasting through the remainder of the academic year, that's all uncertain.

Two weeks ago, Van Heukelum also said he felt comfortable requesting the extra $570,005 from City Council.

"All bets are off," he said.

He added that it's a good time to remember that budgets are just a planning document that can be changed as things develop. Two or three months from now, Van Heukelum said he expects the budget will have to be revisited and changed. 

The extra budget requests were split into two categories — required and Tier 1. There were Tier 2 and Tier 3 budget request categories as well, but they were cut. 

The required funding category totals $817,726 in requests while the Tier 1 requests total $1,475,672, for a combined total of $2,293,398.

For the required category, extra funding is requested to pay for health insurance and Virginia Retirement System increases. It will also cover the utilities and custodial and maintenance staff for the Emil and Grace Shihadeh Innovation Center, which was slated to open in the fall of 2021 to house Career and Technical education classes. Van Heukelum said he anticipates there might be some construction delays on the project related the coronavirus and state mandates. 

The required requests also include $35,000 to cover School Board salaries for the first time. The approved budget also lists a special education autism teacher and a school counselor in the required request.

Tier 1 requests include a 2% cost of living increase for all employees at a cost of $894,003 and another 1% "cost to compete" salary increase for teachers at a cost of $275,571. There are also additional stipends at a cost of $15,000.

Also included in Tier 1 are three registered behavior technicians, cost to compete target increases and a English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher as well as a federal grant finance position. 

Those attending Monday night's Winchester School Board business meeting at the Central Administrative Office included Superintendent Jason Van Heukelum, School Board Chairperson Allyson Pate and members Elyus Wallace, Mike Birchenough, Marie Imoh, Bryan Pearce-Gonzales and Richard Bell. Board members Karen Holman and Erica Truban attended and voted over the phone. 

— Contact Anna Merod at amerod@winchesterstar.com

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