At its April 14 meeting, the School Board adopted an operating budget of $172.7 million for the 2016-17 school year.
The School Board reduced $404,000 from our funding request, an action required after the Board of Supervisors set next year’s property tax rate increase at two cents, rather than the advertised rate increase of 2.5 cents. The way in which supervisors allocated the new revenue projected from the tax increase resulted in our school division’s new funding request deficit.
The cuts made by the School Board were in three areas: The professional development increase for next year was reduced from $500,000 to $450,000; another $270,000 set aside for salary compression relief was eliminated (following similar action by local government on Wednesday); and a proposed increase in funding for the alternative education program was reduced from $130,000 to $70,000.
Addressing professional development and salary compression are long-standing needs. Even with the reduction in our professional development investment increase, we have reversed its previous downward trend. Salary compression will continue to be an area of focus.
In previous years, employee compensation increases have been the source of budget-balancing cuts. That did not happen this year, which is a measure of the high regard and admiration the School Board has and often expresses for your work on behalf of our students.
While last week’s meeting was good news for our ability to plan and move forward, two longer-term issues still face the school division. The first involves the pressures that continued growth in student enrollment are placing upon classroom space; the same is true for facilities that are outdated and not able to offer students equal learning opportunities. One step in meeting this challenge is a bond referendum on school capital improvement projects. The Board of Supervisors is expected in the near future to make a decision about placing such a referendum on the November ballot.
The second issue is the way in which new revenue is allocated between local government and the school division. Historically, schools have received approximately 60 percent of new operating fund revenue from local government. This year, our share was 13 percent. Last week, the School Board expressed their intent to meet with the Board of Supervisors to discuss their concerns about how funds were allocated this year and will be allocated in the future.
The work of our School Board and staff was outstanding in developing and adopting a thoughtful budget that meets the needs of our students, one that enables us to continue to be a leader in innovative and student-centered learning and one that supports and celebrates the care, dedication and excellence of a world-class team of professionals. Thank you for making all of this possible.