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Fauquier school board embraces plan to preserve employee raises in FY 2014 budget

Monday, Apr. 15 | By Mark Grandstaff | Google+
After 75 minutes of questions and explanations, the Fauquier County School Board warmed to the idea of a recommended $127.5 million school budget that would preserve a requested pay increase for school employees.

It's an increase from last year's $125.5 million budget, but far short of the $131 for which school officials hoped.

In addition to a 2 percent pay increase for employees, costing about $1.8 million, the budget recommended by administrative staffers would increase the pay of bus drivers from $12.34 to $13 an hour, not counting the 2 percent increase. The adjustment would cost about $107,000.

The recommended budget would also provide $22,514 toward a position for a mental health intervention specialist position that has been paid for by grants from Fauquier County Mental Health Association about six years. If the MHA continues to contribute grant money, the job would be made into a full-time position. In addition, the recommended budget provides funding for an additional full time teaching position.

To balance the books, the school board would have to forego all other requests in Superintendent Sandra Mitchell's proposed budget. Budget staff have recommended other money-saving adjustments, including:

-A reduction of Anthem health care plans from 4 to 2, saving about $575,000.
-Budgeting a lesser amount for nine positions with the anticipation that the new hires will make less, saving about $349,000..
-An increase in the county's projection of sales tax money from 97.8 percent to 98.8 percent, saving about $133,000.
-Formally eliminating the school policy of paying out additional money for certain positions as employees stay and accrue experience, $34 per year every year for a maximum of 10 years. The school had not been paying out additional money for experience since the recession, said budget director Marcy Cotov, but had budgeted for it until now. The cut would save about $52,200.
-Closing the Teacher Resource Center at 430 East Shirley Avenue, a central location for teaching aids like DVDs and projectors, and eliminating the position of one of its employees after retirement. The cuts would save about $24,900.
-Elimination of one-time funding expenditures with the hopes of picking up the money through grants and saving about $22,100.
-Elimination of the board's membership in the Virginia School Board Association, saving about $8,000.
-A reduction in allocation to per-pupil spending, saving about $6,700.

The school board also reached a tentative agreement on other school budgets. The staff-recommended school nutrition fund, about $5.3 million, includes pay increases and 10-cent increases in lunch fees for students and staff, with the exception of those qualifying for reduced lunch.

The recommended nutrition fund would cut four cafeteria jobs from four elementary schools, Cotov said.

Staff also presented a recommended textbook fund of about $980,000 which satisfies a purchase price allocation of $89.73 as set by the Virginia General Assembly in 2012, and a $2.3 million school asset fund that would allow for the replacement of four school buses.

School officials would have to find one-time grant money as the year progresses to ramp up their schedule of bus replacement to eight per year, a goal of Mitchell's original proposal.

The board members weren't exactly thrilled at the recommendations, but seemed relieved the suggested cuts were not more severe.

"I had a hard time believing we could get here," said board member Brian Gorg (Center District).

The school board is scheduled to vote on the recommendation at an April 22 meeting.
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