Based on conversations in last night's Board meeting, it does appear that a vast majority of School Board members support the administration's recommendation regarding the proposed $1 billion budget and a declining student enrollment. It appears that a vast majority of the Board supports all employees including the Superintendent and Senior administration to receive a 5% raise.
While I believe that we need to remain competitive in teacher/employee pay in order to recruit and retain employees, I also must consider the burden placed on those whose pockets the money is being taken. I am always aware that the funds being used come from the taxpayer and I take very seriously that fact.
I can't forget that many citizens have suffered over the last year. Businesses have closed and people have lost their jobs. Parents have had to sacrifice financially to be at home with their kids or to pay extra day care costs because our schools have been closed. Housing costs/assessments have increased and put a higher burden on citizens to pay their property taxes.
I pray that we can sustain this level of spending and that it is not a future burden that will be harmful to students.
The results from my poll are below. Unfortunately, I received a low response and we only had a handful of speakers and messages on the budget issue over the last couple of months.
At Tuesday's Board meeting I asked the Superintendent several questions that I have been receiving from the public and I wanted to share the responses with everyone.
1. What are the plans to return all Option 1 Middle and High students to 4-5 day a week in person learning for this school year? Answer-- no plans to do so unless VDH/CDC changes guidelines
2. What plans are being made to return all students to in-person learning this fall? Answer-- cannot make those decisions now
3. What are plans for this year's graduation ceremonies? Answer-- We have reserved the convention center and must give a final answer to them by March. Alternate plans being made by principals at individual schools.
4. When can other in-person activities (non-athletic) resume? The Board will be provided an update on this plan at our board meeting in 2 weeks.
I have received a lot of questions related to the Governor's comments over the last couple of days regarding reopening of schools. Today was the first time I have received any correspondence from the Governor's office on this recent topic. Attached is the letter I received today. I am thankful for this statement by the Governor but I believe it should have come months ago. As he said in his press briefing, our students are suffering from a loss of learning and mental health impacts of isolation (and have been for a while).
At this point, I do not have any further information but I will continue to advocate for our students to get back to school for more in-person learning as soon as possible.
Attached below are a few pages from the SEON (Superintendent's Estimate of Needs). The full document can be found here. First a summary of how the budget process works.
1. Feb 2: The Superintendent along with his staff presents the SEON to the School Board
2. The School Board begins to review the budget documents and to ask questions.
3. Feb 9: The public is provided an opportunity to share their input at a public hearing-- (signups are not yet open but when they are (probably Thurs evening) you can find them at this link). Citizens can also share their input to the whole board via e-mail at email@example.com.
4. Weekly Tuesday workshops are held on the budget topic for Board members to discuss and have questions answered
5. March 2: The Board votes on the Operating Budget and the CIP (Capitol Improvement Program).
I have not had an opportunity to dive into the information yet but here is a brief overview of the proposed SEON:
--All employees: proposed 4.5% Cost of Living increase and a .5% step increase for those reaching or below top of scale.
--Increased allowance for advanced degrees
--Upgrade School Counseling Department Chairs
--Move all custodians up one pay grade
--Additional guidance counselor positions (13 ES and 3 MS)
--Total SEON is just over $1 billion, an increase of almost 10% from last year's budget of $915 million
--2020-21 per pupil expenditure was $13,204. 2021-22 proposed per pupil expenditure is $15,020.
--2019-20 student enrollment was 66,816. 2020-21 enrollment is 63,836
--There is a list of items in the document attached that are not funded in the current proposed SEON. For the last several years I have been advocating for increasing additional duty supplements and this was at the top of my list. It still remains on the Unmet needs list.
When I am reviewing these budget documents, I am trying to balance what is most important for our students and also how it will impact taxpayers. The Superintendent highlighted in his presentation that we have served millions of free meals to the children of our district over the course of the last year. We also have approx 40% of our population on free and reduced lunch. I want to be sure that increased spending does not negatively impact our citizens who are already struggling and the spending must be sustainable.
I also value the community's input on this topic. I just ask that if you are making a request for additional spending, please provide a suggestion on where to find that additional money. I will say up front that I will not support a tax increase with an already 10% budget increase.
Please email the Board with your feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*I will address the CIP (Capital Improvement Plan) separately.