Wise County schools begin budget process

Stephen Igo • Mar 28, 2007 at 1:03 AM

WISE - The Wise County school division targets a little over $600,000 more from local taxpayers for next fiscal year than provided in the current school year, and a total operations budget more than $1.8 million above the current year.

In a working draft presented to the Wise County School Board on Monday, administrators project a total operations budget of nearly $71.9 million, or $1.85 million more than the current year. County taxpayers provided a little over $14 million to the school division this school year, and the draft document proposes $14.602 million in 2007-08, an increase of $601,300.

The local increase could be between $75,000 to $90,000 more. School Board Chairman Barry Nelson indicated a desire to increase the $2,000 annual stipend to $3,000 for teachers with master's degrees, and $500 to $1,500 on top of that for teachers with specialist (Ed.S) certificates.

School Superintendent Greg Killough estimated an increase in those stipends would push the local increase request from the Board of Supervisors closer to $700,000 for next year.

Wise County Education Association Finance Committee Chairman Jim Blackburn told the board Monday that one out of every two teachers qualified for the master's stipend just a few years ago, but that number has slipped to 40 percent of the total teacher work force because the county's current stipend isn't much of an incentive for teachers to earn a master's degree.

The draft budget, meanwhile, proposes a 5 percent teacher pay increase for 2007-08, an 8 percent pay hike for support personnel, and 4 percent for administrators. The teacher pay increase is built upon a 3.5 percent pay increase that includes a 1.45 percent state contribution, and the annual automatic salary scale increase all teachers receive every year.

Instruction expenditures in the working draft for next fiscal year are projected at $52.57 million, an increase of $1.54 million over the current year, reflecting the proposed increases in pay and benefits for teachers. Next year's capital outlay budget balloons to more than $11.7 million next year, an increase of $7.35 million above this year's total of nearly $4.4 million, primarily because of two new gymnasiums and other improvements at Powell Valley Primary and Coeburn Middle schools.

The total proposed budget for 2007-08, including federal dollars and flow-through money, is more than $84.5 million, an increase of nearly $9.15 million over the current school year.

Total state funds to Wise County's school system for 2007-08 support nearly 44.3 percent of the school division's needs. The division projects $37.45 million from the state to Wise County next fiscal year compared to more than $36.2 million this year, an increase of over $1.2 million.

For school operations, revenues from the state are projected at nearly $36 million, or not quite 50 percent of the total operations budget. Local funds contribute less than 20 percent of the operations revenues for schools. Expenditures for instruction next year are projected to make up nearly 73 percent of the total operations budget.

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