The Chesterfield County School Board agreed on a ranking of 12 unfunded priorities that members believe would result in safer schools, more equitable educational opportunities for all students and support for staff members. The action came as part of the approval of a $672.2 million Fiscal Year 2020 operating budget that includes a 3 percent salary increase for all staff members.
“This is a good news, bad news budget,” said School Board Chair Rob Thompson, who represents the Matoaca District. “While we are appreciative of increases in state and local revenue that will allow us to maintain current levels of operation, we still have important needs that will go unfunded based on funding levels we expect.”
In order, the School Board supported asking for additional funding for:
- Major maintenance repairs: School safety-related funding request would support completion of projects identified in a recent Facility Condition Assessment.
- Increased bus driver pay: Daily operations-related funding request would increase by $1 the hourly rate to support recruitment/retention efforts in a competitive market. Like many local school divisions, Chesterfield has been unable to staff a full complement of drivers this year.
- School-level mental health supports: School Safety Task Force-related funding request would provide an additional student services support position (counselor, social worker, psychologist) in each school.
- Cameras, door security and alarm systems: School Safety Task Force-related funding request would align with School Safety Task Force recommendation to better secure school facilities and deter potential criminal activity.
- School nurses: School Safety Task Force- and equity-related funding request would, over time, continue efforts to place a nurse in each school to meet student health needs.
- Elementary school assistant principals: Daily operations-related funding request would support a pilot program to change 10 elementary school assistant principal positions to 12-month contracts to better meet the year-round operational needs of schools.
- Staff computer replacements: Daily operations-related funding request would allow for replacement of older staff computers, some that haven’t been replaced since 2012, as part of a multiyear replacement cycle.
- PSAT and SAT funding: Equity-related funding request would provide the school division with a consistent student growth measurement tool. All students in grades 8-11 would take the PSAT or SAT during the school day, breaking down equity barriers such as cost to family and finding transportation on a Saturday.
- Middle school CAR implementation: Equity-related funding request would allow each middle school to have a coordinator of assessment and remediation, allowing school counselors to focus on supporting and meeting mental health needs of students.
- Equity Office creation: Equity-related funding request would provide specialist-level support for school-based implementation of cultural competency initiatives.
- RAVE safety app: School Safety Task Force-related funding would provide mobile application used by school-based leaders to communicate with emergency first responders.
- School Resource Officers: School Safety Task Force-related funding would provide seven additional sworn officers to serve the school division’s soon-to-be 39 elementary schools.
“We may be a victim of our own success,” said Vice Chair Dr. Javaid Siddiqi, who represents the Midlothian District. “Our students’ academic performance continues to be strong, yet the needs of our students are changing. We are not the same community we were 25 years ago. We can’t continue to provide the same level of service today as we did when I was a student at Matoaca High School.”
“I continue to be frustrated, seeing the struggles that our students and staff have,” Bermuda District representative Carrie Coyner added. “We see it because we’re out in our schools. Yet, somehow it’s not translating to everyone else.”
The approved operating budget, which will provide funds for school division expenses during the 2019-20 school year, is a 2.7 percent increase from current year investments in education. The approved operating budget includes funding as proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam. While the General Assembly subsequently has approved a state budget, exact state funding levels for local school divisions are not yet know. It is likely, however, that General Assembly-approved funding levels will be less than what was proposed by the Governor. If that is the case, the School Board may have to take further action to reduce costs.
As it stands now, the $17.5 million increase largely will go to support increases in compensation and benefits for staff and to meet the needs associated with an increasing student enrollment. The approved operating budget includes among other items:
- 3 percent salary increase (including temporary, substitute and overtime pay) … $12.9 million
- Increase in healthcare costs (8 percent employer rate increase) … $4 million
- Increase in debt service payments … $3.9 million
- Continued support of VPI+ program … $1.9 million
- Instructional pool positions (to address unexpected student enrollment growth, increase in special education enrollments, increase in English language learners population … $1.7 million
- Student enrollment growth (26.5 positions to support increased number of students) …. $1.6 million
- Additional funding for maintenance … $900,000
- Staff to support Old Hundred Elementary opening … $751,200
- Additional school counseling positions … $670,000
- Bus fleet replacement … $250,000
In addition, capital pay-as-you-go funding ($11.6 million) and a realignment of salaries based on salary lapse ($2.2 million) were eliminated from the base budget.
“Families move to Chesterfield County for many reasons; however, top among them is reported to be high-quality schools,” Clover Hill District representative Dianne Smith said. “The county government’s recent community engagement efforts related to Blueprint Chesterfield continue to show residents support a strong investment in public education. We look forward to working collaboratively with our colleagues to meet our community’s expectations.”
“It’s our Board’s intention to continue to show the importance of these unfunded priorities, such as higher salaries for bus drivers, and how they make life better for our students and our community,” Dale District representative John Erbach said. “It’s our hope the community will continue to voice their support for safe schools, high-quality educational opportunities for all students and the best teachers we can recruit and employ during upcoming community conversations about the county’s budget.”
School Board members will join their Board of Supervisors colleagues for presentations on the proposed budget during upcoming community meetings.
- March 14 at 7 p.m.: Dale District meeting at the Central Library, 7051 Lucy Corr Boulevard
- March 18 at 1 p.m: Bermuda District meeting at the Bensley Recreation Center, 2900 Drewrys Bluff Road
- March 18 at 7 p.m.: Bermuda District meeting at Enon Elementary, 2001 E. Hundred Road
- March 20 at 7 p.m.: Midlothian District meeting at John Tyler Community College (Hamel Hall), 800 Charter Colony Parkway
- March 21 at 1 p.m.: Dale District meeting at Meadowdale Library, 4301 Meadowdale Boulevard
- March 25 at 7 p.m.: Clover Hill and Matoaca districts joint meeting at the Career and Technical Center @ Hull, 13900 Hull Street Road
- March 26 at 1 p.m.: Matoaca District meeting at Swift Creek Baptist Church, 7511 N. Spring Run Road
- March 26 at 7 p.m.: Matoaca District meeting at Shiloh Baptist Church, 6711 Hickory Road