Wednesday Spotlight – School Board has approved a $727 million budget

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The Chesterfield County School Board has approved a $727 million budget that will fund operations for the 2020-21 school year. The budget approval represents approximately a $55 million increase from the current operating budget, yet falls short of meeting all of the needs identified in earlier discussions about the cost of doing business in 2020.

The approved budget ensures that Chesterfield County Public Schools will remain in compliance with state-required Standards of Quality, fulfill the requirements associated with a state-mandated Local Maintenance of Effort, and supports the cost of operations for a 63,000-plus student school division. 

The approved budget also includes a $0.75/hour salary increase for bus drivers and a 2 percent salary increase for all other staff members. However, the approved budget falls short of addressing the teacher pay crisis and the planned decompression of teacher salaries.

“It’s difficult to say that a $55 million increase is not a win for our students, because there are a number of items that support students, teachers and schools included in the approved budget,” Superintendent Dr. Marv Daugherty said. “However, we need to do more to support our teachers or I fear they will not be with us for the long term. The School Board has acknowledged and we have heard that, in addition to meeting state requirements, teacher pay is the No 1 issue moving forward.”

The original budget proposed in January included approximately $35 million to address salary decompression, an issue that causes teachers to leave Chesterfield County for higher-paying positions in surrounding school divisions. According to school division data, 35 percent of Chesterfield County’s teacher workforce has turned over during the last five years.

Only 56 days into their elected roles, School Board members acknowledged the need to look at a bigger picture and determine how the school division’s needs can be met over the course of time. The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors recently allocated $100,000 for a salary study that will provide recommendations for addressing the teacher pay crisis in a sustainable manner. 

“I have come to realize, just two months into this position, that I need to look at the long game,” School Board Chair Debbie Bailey said. “The Board of Supervisors has a tough job: They have to decide how to allocate county revenue. The Board of Supervisors has committed to funding a decompressed salary scale once a study has been completed.  So we wait, and we trust.”  

Added School Board Vice Chair Dot Heffron: “Addressing teacher salary decompression is a discussion that was long overdue. While I am disappointed that we were unable to secure funding for this initiative this year, I am encouraged by the willingness on the part of the Board of Supervisors to engage in a comprehensive salary study and their commitment to fund teacher salary decompression based on the results of that study. I’m confident the study will yield results that demonstrate not only the need for immediate action in the form of salary correction, but I am equally confident that the study will show that our initial scale was actually quite conservative.”

The approved School Board budget includes $30 million in new revenue from the state government, $12 million in new revenue from the local government, and approximately $8.5 million in carryover funds that the school division has not spent in previous budget cycles. 

Highlights of increased expenditures include:

  • $7.9 million to serve a student enrollment projected to increase by more than 1,200 students next year
  • $7.5 million for required Standards of Quality positions (101 general education teachers, special education teachers, school counselors and technology-related teachers)
  • $5.8 million associated with projected increases to employee benefits (Virginia Retirement System and health care)
  • $5.1 million for required Local Maintenance of Effort positions (88 special education teachers, English language learner teachers and school-based administrative support)
  • $3.4 million in additional school-based funding to allow principals to meet the needs of their individual schools
  • $2 million for preventative maintenance of HVAC and other facility equipment
  • $1.5 million for a differentiated staffing pool to supplement the workforce at schools struggling to retain accreditation

The School Board will now transfer its approved budget for consideration by the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, which will begin deliberations soon. 

“We encourage our community – all residents benefit from a strong public school system – to continue to engage with the School Board and Board of Supervisors in this important discussion about funding priorities,” Bailey said. “The ability to continue to be a vibrant community tomorrow rests on our ability to invest today.”

The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors will host these community meetings on the budget:

  • March 12 at 1 p.m.: Matoaca District at the Clover Hill public library, located at 6701 Deer Run Drive
  • March 16 at 7 p.m.: Midlothian District in Hamel Hall at John Tyler Community College, located at 800 Charter Colony Parkway
  • March 18 at 2 p.m.: Dale District at Meadowdale Library, located at 4301 Meadowdale Boulevard
  • March 18 at 7 p.m.: Dale District at Meadowdale Library, located at 4301 Meadowdale Boulevard
  • March 19 at 1 p.m.: Bermuda District at the Bensley Community Center, located at 2900 Drewry’s Bluff Road
  • March 19 at 7 p.m.: Bermuda District at Thomas Dale High, located at 3626 W. Hundred Road
  • March 23 at 7 p.m.: Joint Clover Hill and Matoaca districts at Clover Hill High, located at 13301 Kelly Green Lane
  • March 24 at 7 p.m.: Matoaca District at Matoaca High, located at 17700 Longhouse Lane

Additional details about the approved budget

School Board members’ comments

Debbie Bailey, Chair, Dale District

  • “I campaigned on raising teacher salaries to the national average and decompressing the teacher salary scale. This budget does not achieve my goals.” 
  • “I will not stop advocating for the wonderful teachers in this county. I can only hope that once the salary study is complete and the teacher salary scale is decompressed and fully funded, that it is not too late for those who are questioning whether they should stay.”

Dot Heffron, Vice Chair, Clover Hill District

  • “Is there anything you wouldn’t do for your kids? From my time in the classroom as a teacher, tutor, and volunteer, that is how I see Chesterfield students: They are ‘my kids.’ For me, and probably for most of us, the answer is, of course, ‘I would do anything for my kids.’ But as we all know too well, willingness and ability are two separate entities.” 
  • “These problems didn’t arrive overnight and they aren’t going to be rectified overnight. The systematic underfunding of our schools has to be fixed, and it will be. We have made real and tangible progress: $55 million additional dollars in new money is going to make a difference. It’s not everything we need, but it’s a start.” 

Ryan Harter, Matoaca District

  • “As we embark on this 4-year journey, we will continue focusing efforts to improve our schools on every front. Unfortunately, with limited resources we cannot achieve every goal we want in the first two months.  This is a process that will take time and determination.”   
  • “Members of this board have expressed a desire to revisit and dive deep into our base budget for any inefficiencies. As elected officials, we need to verify that we are fiscally responsible with every dollar spent.”

Ann Coker, Bermuda District

  •  “What I have learned during this process is that we are running a marathon not a sprint, and that it will take time and perseverance. Over the next four years, I will continue to support every effort to fund the needs of our schools, teachers and students.”
  • “I welcome the opportunity to find ways to examine our internal processes.  I will continue to support any reallocation of funding to address teacher pay or increase the school-based allocation funding.  A teacher’s focus should be on teaching and not on how to find ways to attain resources and materials for their students and classroom.”

Kathryn Haines, Midlothian District

  • “We are voting yes on this budget but it is with the expectation that this study will be completed with the goal to begin decompression as soon as possible. We have a teacher retention problem in Chesterfield County. According to our HR team, 35 percent of our teacher workforce has turned over during the last five years. Decompression is an important piece of the retention puzzle.”
  • “The Superintendent and staff were courageous to point out the many needs, many of which are legal requirements, of our district. This budget, given revenue constraints, will not meet those needs this year, and that is why we have asked for a five-year plan. Our special education and counseling departments, among others, will still struggle under this budget. We have not yet put a nurse in every school. I think that we need to come to the agreement that without increased revenue, in the form of a meals tax, we will never meet our needs.”

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