Schools budget approved

Published 9:34 pm Friday, May 15, 2015

Spirits were high at Thursday’s School Board meeting when members voted to approve a budget that’s fully funded by the city for the first time in years.

After dozens of teachers put their case to councilmen last month, City Council last week changed the staff recommendation and granted the school district $3.9 million to boost pay for teachers throughout the scale.

For example, when she returns to the classroom in the fall, a teacher with 10 years’ experience will have her pay boosted from $41,810 now to $46,725, and one with 15 years’ experience will see his increased from a current $46,525 to $51,587.

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The budget formally adopted Thursday is up 2.6 percent from the current year, to almost $132.4 million. The budget provides raises for all teachers and for most support staff. Some support workers had been found to be lagging market rates by more than 20 percent.

Any position not included in these raises, which are rooted in a compensation study the city primarily funded, will get a 1.5 percent state-funded raise. The school district budget also includes another 1-percent bump for the five-year phase-in of a mandated 5-percent Virginia Retirement System local increase.

“We are fully funded — it feels really good to say that. We are fully funded,” district Superintendent Deran Whitney said, to a round of applause.

During comments by board members at the end of the meeting, most basked in the afterglow of a rare piece of good news from the city, which in recent years has shortchanged plans to boost pay for teachers and support staff.

Last week, city Finance Director Lenora Reid said higher projections in several revenue streams, including taxes levied on business licenses, tobacco, personal property and lodging, allowed the city to fully meet the school district’s request. (The city budget also raises the real estate tax rate 4 cents to $1.07 per $100 of assessed value.)

“We appreciate the fact that we have this relationship that we do, that’s getting better — I believe — every day,” School Board member Judith Brooks-Buck of the School Board’s relationship with City Council.