Chesterfield, Virginia (WRIC) – The Chesterfield County School Board has voted to adopt a $ 900 million budget for next year, consolidating support for major investments despite uncertainty over some important sources of income.
At its meeting on February 22, the Board voted unanimously to adopt the proposed budget, sending it to the Supervisory Board for final approval.
While funding for just over $ 60 million comes from catering and grants, the proposed operating budget of $ 837 million is the place where the biggest changes have been made: $ 76 million has been added from a mix of state and local sources.
The largest increase, about $ 60 million, went to fund a series of planned increases in the salaries of teachers and staff designed to address the shortage of staff that has affected school departments across the country.
This will increase the salaries of veteran teachers by 8% and try to reduce the “compression pay”, a problem in which experienced teachers do not earn much more than their younger colleagues, forcing them to go to school units that reward long-term work. entrants.
But at the same time the school board managed to reduce their deficit from $ 23 million an earlier version of the budget, the offer is still short of about $ 8 million. And this despite declining investment in infrastructure and other key priorities.
Part of the problem is that Chesterfield still doesn’t know exactly how much funding it will receive from the state this year.
“The House proposal looks flat or slightly negative to us, given some decline in their revenues,” said CCPS CFO Bob Meister. “While the Senate proposal proposes an increase of about $ 6 million.”
The House of Representatives has been controlled by Republicans since last year’s election, which also led to Glen Yangkin’s gubernatorial post, while the Senate remains under Democrat control.
The master added that the county expected an increase of about $ 3 million when all was said and done, about halfway between the two versions.
Listening to the public
One of the items that was cut to make up the shortfall was a $ 3 million grant for a “School with Disability” scholarship to increase enrollment in some staff with a shortage of staff.
One parent posted a comment on the Internet, expressing support for maintaining new initiatives: “It seems all the costs are necessary. Excluding matters of concern can undermine issues that need to be addressed. ”
But the meeting on Tuesday was attended by few, only one public speaker showed up to personally pay his two cents.
“I hope as a community that we treat our public educators better than in the last few months,” said Michael Garabinas, a father from Chesterfield and a regular participant in the often controversial board meetings.
Board member Debbie Bailey thanked Garabinas for coming to the meeting and said she would like more residents to be interested in the budget process: “I am interested in people flocking to some of our meetings and the ones I believe at the most it’s critical – the budget – they don’t come to say anything. “
The Council has also improved the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which outlines the unit’s major construction projects until 2026.
Some of the projects have actually been postponed due to the pandemic, but a $ 375 million bond referendum, which will be key to funding ambitious projects, will finally come out to voters in November this year.
“Two years ago, just before the pandemic, we were ready to propose a referendum on 2020 bonds,” said County Administrator Joe Casey. He added that the county is now in a much safer financial position and has been able to provide favorable conditions.
The CIP will require the county to build or renovate a number of schools, as the department estimates there will be thousands more students in the next decade.
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