By Randy Arrington
LURAY, March 30 — During a budget work session last night, Dr. Antonio Fox presented the proposed FY23 budget for Page County Public Schools to the Page County Board of Supervisors, which includes a request for nearly $1 million in additional local dollars over the current budget.
The nearly 9-percent increase in local funds will help support a proposed 7-percent increase in salaries across the board for school personnel, according to the division’s superintendent.
Of the nearly $3.8 million in projected cost increases for local schools in the next budget cycle, nearly $2.2 million is earmarked for the 7-percent salary adjustment, as well as step increases for qualified staff. The remainder of the increase will go toward a proposed classified scale adjustment in salaries ($477,030); additional staff ($599,475); facilities ($5,000); and a projected 10-percent hike in health insurance costs ($530,224). The funds earmarked in the operating budget for facilities is above and beyond $2.7 million in the proposed CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) budget for school maintenance projects and other facility upgrades.
Overall, the superintendent’s proposed FY23 budget for schools shows a 12.2-percent increase, from $43.4 million in the current fiscal year, to $48.7 million for the new 12-month spending cycle that begins July 1.
Much of the $5.3 million hike in the school division’s proposed budget is absorbed through increased funding at the state and federal level, which combined is expected to generate more than $36 million to operate local schools over the upcoming year. The request for a 9-percent increase in local funds would bring the county’s contribution from just under $11 million to just under $12 million.
The request for local funds was actually lowered from an increase of 14.6 percent — or $1.6 million in additional funding — within the last couple of weeks after an energy-savings contract with Johnson Controls was moved to the county’s budget for accounting purposes.
The school system is being conservative this budgeting cycle in the attendance figure (or ADM) it uses to base state funding on. If the figure is estimated too high, it could cost the school system more than budgeted, but if it’s too low, it could result in a windfall of sorts. In FY21, the budgeted ADM was 3,214 compared to the actual ADM of 3,122. The current budgeted ADM is 3,123 for FY22, but Dr. Fox is using an ADM of only 2,986 for the proposed FY23 budget.
“We’re going a little conservative this year,” the superintendent said during the March 24 school board meeting, “because if we over-budget, we have six months to find that money.”
Dr. Fox presented a proposed school budget on Tuesday night that puts an emphasis on “compensation adjustments to attract and retain qualified staff.” That is reflected in efforts to raise salaries, make step increases, adjust the salary scale itself, add more staff to alleviate workloads and continue to meet rising health insurance and retirement system costs.
Additional staff being requested include an instructor for an electrical program at the Page County Technical Center, which also requires facility upgrades to create a classroom and get equipment ($5,000 earmarked for facilities in operating budget). Other classroom positions include an alternative education teacher, an additional classroom teacher (location/school TBD), and an additional instructional aide (location/school TBD). To address student’s social, emotional and behavioral needs, the division is proposing the hiring of an additional social worker, behavior specialist and school counselor (location/school TBD). The hiring of a data system specialist is also being proposed to manage Power School.
Much of the proposed school budget, just like the county budget, is waiting for the General Assembly to come to terms on changes and amendments to Governor Youngkin’s proposed biennium budget for Virginia. Final terms over school constructions funds and other issues will determine what Page County Schools will receive in state funding, which makes up 62 percent of the division’s revenue. Assembly members are scheduled to reconvene in Richmond for a special session to complete the state’s two-year budget on April 4.
The Page County Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a public hearing on advertised tax rates, as well as the overall school and county proposed budget for FY23, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19. Tax rates will likely be adopted that night following the public hearing, which will, for the most part, lock in projected revenues for the upcoming spending cycle.
The board of supervisors is expected to adopt the county’s final FY23 budget on Tuesday, May 3. The school board will then make any final adjustments after state and local funding are set, and adopt their final budget for the division on Thursday, May 12.
FY23 runs from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023.
To follow issues discussed by the Page County School Board, use the Board Docs feature on the school division’s website under the Menu’s “School Board” prompt.