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Roanoke County passes school budget
The spending plan avoids layoffs and school closings but does not include a raise.
Friday, March 15, 2013
The budget approved by the Roanoke County School Board on Thursday has no school closings, no layoffs and no raises.
Board members lamented the continued cuts to funding and the fact they were unable to give raises. They spoke with uncertainty about future budgets and spending.
Drew Barrineau, the board’s vice chair, said the system is in constant budget mode and that there just isn’t the money there used to be.
“We just can’t seem to get out of this hole,” he said.
The 2013-14 general fund budget of about $133.8 million is just $886,567 more than last year’s budget and includes decreases in state and federal funding.
The board unanimously approved the spending plan, which reduces spending by eliminating some teaching and central office positions through retirements, reductions to adult education, and cuts to career and technical education. The budget also posts savings through locking in fuel prices and outsourcing some custodial work.
The system’s budget also shows the loss of some federal funds through sequestration. Some special education funding, for example, will be cut, but the system must still maintain those services adding to the financial squeeze.
The budget also keeps open Fort Lewis Elementary School next school year. The school has consistently been on the chopping block in recent years. Thursday the board also voted to begin installing an air conditioning system in the school’s gym, which was previously on hold while the school’s fate was uncertain.
While staffing and Fort Lewis were ultimately spared, the budget does not include raises for employees. County officials will forego funds in the state budget for the state’s share of a 2 percent pay raise for some school employees.
Localities that offer the raises still have to fund the local share, which is estimated to be about $919,000 in Roanoke County. County school officials unsuccessfully asked legislators to take into account the raises they gave last year.
“I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to reward our teachers and our staff for the outstanding work that they are doing,” board member Fuzzy Minnix said. “They certainly deserve it.”
Even without raises, the budget will cover the cost of health insurance increases for employees through reserve funds.
About 83 percent of the 2013-14 operating budget is personnel costs, such as salaries and benefits.
Changes to the budget could still be made as the school system awaits word from the county about its level of funding.
About 49 percent of the school system’s budget is funded by local taxes. According to a revenue sharing agreement, the system should get an increase of $561,294 from the county. But the county hasn’t balanced its budget yet, so it’s unclear whether the formula will be followed.
The final adoption and appropriation of the system’s budget will happen in May.
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