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Scott County School Board OKs budget that avoids teacher layoffs, includes raise

Wes Bunch • May 11, 2013 at 9:55 PM

GATE CITY — The Scott County School Board passed an amended fiscal year 2013-14 budget that avoids teacher layoffs while giving employees their first salary increase in more than five years.

The roughly $33 million budget, which was adopted unanimously, includes $4.8 million in required local funding. That amount excludes approximately $362,000 in additional local funding requested by the school board.

In addition to the local funding, the budget contains $25.1 million in state funding and $1.9 million federal funding, which represents an 18 percent drop from this year.

Overall, the revised totals come in almost $1.4 million less than the budget the school system currently operates under. The drop is mostly due to the loss of $1.6 million in extra funding the Scott County Board of Supervisors allocated to cover changes in state retirement contributions.

Despite the loss of those funds, Scott County Schools Superintendent John Ferguson said the budget will still allow the school system to meets its obligations to students and staff.

“The priority of the school board was to keep everyone employed,” Ferguson said. “There won’t be as much money in the instructional funds that the schools would like to see, but there will still be money there.

“In terms of our programs, we’ll continue to have the same programs, and we’ve added some new ones. We’re trying to give more offerings for students with the people we have now.”

Ferguson said the school system was also able to give its employees a raise thanks to nearly $205,000 in extra state funding earmarked for that purpose and a $39,000 local match.

“This budget has a two percent raise for everyone,” Ferguson said. “Teachers, aides, bus drivers, custodians, maintenance. It’s for everyone, not just one select group.”

Teachers did receive a five percent increase for the current fiscal year, however the entire amount went to cover an increase in Virginia Retirement System contributions, Ferguson said.

“We took a huge hit last year with the changes to retirement,” Ferguson said. “Even though they received a five percent increase, it all went to retirement, and they actually lost money on top of that when taxes were factored in. It’s been several years since we’ve been able to do anything like this for our people, so we’re glad to be able to do it.”

Ferguson said the system was able to close its $1.5 million funding gap through staff attrition and other cost saving matters.

In fact, Ferguson said the school system still had nearly $500,000 of the extra county funding from this year that was left over due to teachers leaving and not being replaced.

“It was the view of our budget committee and myself, this money was used originally to keep our current employees in their jobs,” Ferguson said. “At the time we passed the budget for 2012-2013, we did not know that many people would be leaving the school system. That’s over $600,000 in instructional personnel alone from this year to last.”

Although the school system removed its request for extra local funding from its budget, Ferguson said the BOS Budget Committee did agree to place the requested amount in a separate line item in the county budget.

“I’m appreciative of the Board of Supervisors and their recommendation, but it’s still subject to their final approval,” Ferguson said. “What we originally presented to them and what we came back with on the second and third attempts, they did say they would set the $360,000-plus we asked for in a separate line item for the school system.”

The decision to only include the state’s required local match in the budget was made after supervisors indicated at a budget workshop May 1 that they would not allocate the additional funds directly to the school board.

In March, the school board passed a budget that originally requested $544,000 in extra local funding from supervisors, but pared that amount back following meetings with members of their budget committee.

School officials said they requested that amount since it was in line with extra funding supervisors had given the schools in fiscal years 2009-10 through 2011-12. County officials, however, pointed out the extra funding in those year’s brought the county’s total contribution to $4.8 million — the same amount being mandated by the state for FY 2013-14.

The one-time allocation of $1.6 million in extra money given by supervisors brought the local contribution for schools in FY 2012-13 to $6.4 million.

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