The Chesterfield County School Board unanimously adopted its Fiscal Year 2018 operating budget of $621 million during its Feb. 28 meeting.
The budget, which funds operations for the 2017-18 school year, focuses on academic support, classroom innovation, safe schools and rewarding outstanding staff members. The approved financial plan provides for additional classroom teachers, funding for Early College Academies, an alternative education Phoenix Program and CodeRVA, initial funding for the school starting time changes, additional special education coordinators and school nurses, school bus replacements and school safety enhancements. The budget also includes a 2 percent salary increase for all eligible employees, additional funding to cover rising costs of employee benefits and additional funding for the Supplemental Retirement Plan.
“There is a reason parents move to Chesterfield County to raise their families and also a reason educators throughout Virginia and across the country visit our schools. That reason: We do education well,” said Dr. Javaid Siddiqi, chairman of the School Board and the representative for the Midlothian District. “The School Board is grateful to parents who choose our outstanding school division and who entrust their children to us. The School Board is also grateful to all county residents who support our school division and their investment in public education.”
“The School Board’s approved budget will help us maintain our position as a national leader in public education, while positioning us to become innovation leaders as we create the classrooms of the future through work with technology, project-based learning, career and technical education and early college academies,” Superintendent Dr. James Lane said. “This budget not only invests in our students, but also seeks to enhance our efforts to acknowledge, support and reward our hard-working staff members who have helped us to create what others across the state view as a model school division.”
The School Board held two budget work sessions, two public hearings and participated in community meetings to review the proposals and receive input. The Superintendent and senior leadership team members met with community and school groups, as well as school administrators to receive comments and suggestions relating to the proposal. Both the Citizens’ Budget Advisory and the Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Committees have met numerous times to receive information and provide input.
The approved FY 2018 operating budget includes the following academic support-related highlights:
- Pupil-Teacher Ratio Reduction
The effort to reduce class sizes continues in FY 2018 and remains a fixture in the five-year plan that guides budget development. Teaching positions will be strategically added to enhance instruction and remain in compliance with staffing standards.
- Early College Academy
In partnership with John Tyler Community College, this program reinvents the high school experience by allowing interested high school students to complete coursework that would allow them to graduate from Chesterfield County with a high school diploma and a two-year associates degree.
CodeRVA is a new regional school focused on utilizing 21st century instructional techniques to create a more individualized approach to learning. Online/virtual learning will be enriched by small group instruction and frequent collaborative project-based learning (PBL) opportunities designed and facilitated by teachers and industry experts. The goal is for public education to better meet the business community’s need for more computer science professionals. Funding is provided for 29 students in FY 2018, with additional students added in both FY 2019 and
- Alternative Education Program (Phoenix Program)
Funding is provided for the creation of a comprehensive alternative education program with the goal of allowing all students to achieve academic success. The program will engage students who have not been engaged in a traditional educational environment through individualized engagement and innovation.
- School Starting Times
The division’s starting time for all schools will be realigned beginning with the 2018-19 school year. The realignment will allow high school students to begin classes later in the morning, meeting medical recommendations for high school starting times.
- Special Education Art and Music Program
This program provides a new elective opportunity for special education students. Funding is provided to support an art and music program at all secondary schools.
- Special Education Coordinators
The FY 2018 budget provides funding to support the second part of a two-year initiative to provide special education coordinator services to each elementary school. This work will assist in better serving students identified with special needs and also will allow school-based leaders to more directly support classroom instruction.
- School Nurses
Funding is included to provide a nurse in every school. Full implementation of the plan will occur in FY 2021. Until that time, nurses will be allocated based on a school’s enrollment.
- School Bus Replacement
The school bus replacement program will continue to receive funding in FY 2018, with the goal of replacing older buses in the fleet on a routine cycle.
- Safety Enhancements
The capital budget contains funding to replace exterior doors at many of our facilities and funding for improved fire safety efforts. Although funded in the capital budget, the operating budget contains additional debt payments to support this initiative.
- Pay Increase
The approved budget contains a 2-percent pay increase for all eligible employees. The five-year plan includes a 2-percent salary increase for each of the five years.
- Employee Benefits
Funding is provided for increased payments to the Virginia Retirement System and anticipated increases in the employer health insurance payments.
- Supplemental Retirement Plan (SRP)
SRP is a retirement plan that has existed for more than 20 years. The school division has recently worked with a committee of employees, an actuary and outside legal counsel to develop a program and funding model that seeks to provide the financial viability of the program for all qualifying employees. In anticipation of the results from that work, the approved budget contains funds to meet the anticipated increase to the program. Additional funding is also provided in each year of the five-year program.
- Strategic Adjustments for School Level Leadership
School level leadership is a vital component of the instructional program delivered to our students. In recent years, the division has experienced difficulty in both attracting and retaining these leaders to the division. The FY 2018 approved budget contains funds to make our positions more attractive in comparison to our primary employment competitor in the region.
Additional information about the approved budget is available at mychesterfieldschools.com. The school budget now goes to the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, which will consider the School Board’s approved budget along with other county funding requests. Community meetings about the overall county budget will be held throughout March for additional public input.