School board approves $47.5M budget, teachers get full 7% raise plus step increases

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By Randy Arrington

LURAY, June 28 — Last Thursday, the Page County School Board unanimously adopted its $47.5 million spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on Friday. The total figure comes in just ($275,536) under what was originally proposed at the start of the budget process this winter. Due to the influx of increased federal and state dollars and the inclusion of capital improvement plan (CIP) funding, the new budget represents a more than $4 million increase (or 9.2 percent) over the FY22 total budget of $43.4 million.

The bulk of the FY23 budget — $43 million — is earmarked for operations. That represents a $1.6 million increase (or 3.9 percent) over the current budget, which ends June 30. More than $2.7 million is budgeted for capital improvements this upcoming year, and nearly $2.2 million is dedicated to food service.

State funding makes up about 62 percent of the overall school budget and came in $27,403 more than anticipated in the Governor’s biennium state budget presented in December. After failing to reach a compromise and pass a balanced budget during its spring session, the General Assembly held additional special sessions before reaching an agreement on June 2 and passing on a budget for the Governor to sign, which he did on June 21.

The Page County Board of Supervisors adopted an $86.5 million dollar FY23 budget in May that included an additional $694,108 in local funding for schools above the current budget. The amount falls well short of the additional $1.6 million originally requested by schools.

However, that request was later lowered to just under $1 million, when the county earlier this year shifted a long-term, multi-million-dollar energy savings contract with Johnson Controls from the school budget to the county budget. The move took more than $600,000 out of the annual school budget, which means the increase in local funding for FY23 simply puts the school division back at the same level of local funding as FY22, around $11 million.

Page County Public Schools were able to fund $2.6 million of the $3.2 million in new requests included in the FY23 budget proposed by Superintendent Antonia Fox. Faculty and staff are scheduled to receive a 7-percent salary increase, plus step increases, valued at nearly $2.2 million. The division will also conduct a classified scale adjustment for employees at a cost of $477,030. However, the approved budget does not include nearly $600,000 for eight new positions Fox recommended.

During last Thursday’s school board meeting, the superintendent said additional efforts will be made to find funding for three of the positions on that list — Alternative Education Teacher, Electricity Teacher (Tech Center) and a Behavior Specialist — at a total cost of $217,009.

During the meeting, Fox also noted new needs that have surfaced in recent months, including two additional school resource officers, additional pre-k teachers and instruction assistants due to waiting lists at both Shenandoah and Stanley Elementary, and additional capital projects.

The capital projects may be funded through CIP funds or ESSER III federal dollars. The state is providing $1.8 million in CIP funds, slightly less than the $2.1 million originally anticipated. However, the division’s current CIP contains at least 15 different projects considered priorities that are estimated to cost more than $50 million. Fox said a new CIP will be developed and shared with supervisors that re-evaluates the school system’s capital needs over the next decade.

The superintendent told school board members that she is likely to come back to them “with an amendment or two” for the FY23 budget as she continues to look for ways to fund additional positions.

“We may be able to fund some of these things with ESSER III funds, we may have to go back to the board of supervisors and ask for additional funds…it’s likely we are going to do both of these,” Dr. Fox said, adding that federal funds flowing in now will “dry up” in two years. “So that buys us two years to find the money to fund those positions.”

Use Board Docs to follow meetings of the Page County School Board, including documentation and presentations being given during the meeting.

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