The Clarke County School Board voted on Tuesday night to ask the Board of Supervisors for $281K in new spending to fund a two percent raise for Clarke County Public School staff. The proposed $19.99M budget also includes $147K in funding for 3.5 new instructional positions while cutting hours for school administrative staff, reducing lawn mowing costs, and possibly consolidating certain school-provided transportation options for students. The proposed budget offers a half-percent increase over last year’s spending prior to adding $850K of Commonwealth-mandated spending increases.
School Board chairman Janet Alger (Russell) set the early tone for last night’s meeting by urging the School Board members on the importance of coming to a budget decision soon given the February 24th deadline for submitting financial requirements to the Board of Supervisors.
Earlier in the day Clarke County Supervisor David Weiss (Buckmarsh) asked CCPS Superintendent Dr. Michael Murphy to convey to the School Board his opposition to a salary increase given the difficult economic times.
“I don’t think that it is appropriate for County employees to receive a pay increase at a time when citizens do not,” Weiss said. Weiss also pointed out that it would be difficult for the Supervisors to deny a pay increase for County employees if teachers receive a pay increase.
County finance officials say that a two percent pay raise for non-CCPS County employees, including Department of Social Services staff, will cost about $100K.
After Dr. Murphy delivered Weiss’s message to the School Board, School Board chairman Janet Alger made her budget priorities clear to the other members.
“I’ve said that I support a cost of living allowance and the need for additional staffing,” Alger said. “We have to either come to a consensus on what we want by February 24th or ask for a delay.”
The School Board then began the painstaking task of sifting through the various “tiers” of school funding cuts. None of the proposed cuts found much support from the School Board or CCPS staff.
School Board members discussed the cost saving possibilities of longer bus routes with more students on each bus, fewer coaches for athletic teams, reducing school administrative staff, elimination of after-school programs at Johnson Williams Middle School, reduction in student athlete drug testing, elimination of the PAVAN arts program and cutting school calendar days to cite on a few of the options considered.
However, just as the budget deliberations appeared destined to become an exercise in debating the relative pain of slashing one program over another, School Board member Jim Brinkmeier (Berrryville) offered an approach that he said had the support of at least two County Supervisors.
Brinkmeier put forward a budget proposal that essentially offers a half-percent increase in school spending after making a series of Tier I and Tier II budget cuts after adding back $592K in state composite index funding. However, Brinkmeier’s budget also asks the Supervisors to pick-up CCPS’s $850K share of increases from the Virginia Retirement System, health and life insurance increases.
Brinkmeier said that he had spoken to several County Supervisors, who he declined to name, who he says concur with his budget approach.
The School Board also moved forward on funding $325K in capital costs to cover CCPS’s share of a proposed enterprise resource planning (ERP) system needed to replace the County’s inefficient antiquated information technology infrastructure and administrative systems.
In a series of motions the School Board:
– unanimously approved a two-percent pay increase for CCPS staff
– unanimously approved two and a half FTE licensed elementary teachers and a wheel chair instructional assistant position
– adopted Tier I budget cuts with the exception of restoring $50K to cover a possible shortfall in the food service program
– agreed to implement Tier II stipends cuts of $31,360 and delegate $7,000 in administrative personnel cuts to Dr. Murphy for implementation (Shutte – White Post – “Nay”)
– approved $325K for the County-Schools ERP initiative (Brinkmeier – Berryville – “Nay”)
Although any school pay raise is far from certain given that the Clarke County Supervisors have final say on approving the necessary funding, several CCPS teachers and a school principal expressed their appreciation for the School Board’s vote of support.
“My husband is on the board of FISH, a local organization that provides assistance to people in need in our community,” CCPS teacher Beth Dowling told the School Board during the public comment period of the meeting. “Just this week FISH had requests from two Clarke County instructional assistants. I think that the requests put a human face on the hardships that some of our employees are facing.”
D. G. Cooley principal Griff Carmichael said that although CCPS’s instructional assistants are responsible for the success of many school programs, because they are hourly employees – and precluded working overtime – they are unable to help with afterschool tutoring and other programs.
“If you could find a way to help compensate these people I know that everyone would appreciate it,” Carmichael said.
Jennifer Crossway, a CCPS special education instructor said that she has wanted to be a teacher all of her life but never dreamed that once she became a teacher she would have to work an additional part-time job in order to support herself.
Crossway told the School Board that in order to make ends meet she travels four days a week to a part-time job in Winchester. The additional work and travel leaves Crossway with little time or energy for the necessary preparation and other after-school activities that go along with being a teacher.
“Even so, I’m proud to work in Clarke County,” Crossway said. “I still enjoy my job and I have the best students in the school division.”
The Clarke County School Board will reconvene on Monday night for a final review and vote on the budget before it is submitted to the Clarke County Board of Supervisors.
View the Clarke County School Board “FY13 Budget Discussion” documents here: CCPS FY13 Budget Work Sheets