David Jeck

Fauquier County Schools Superintendent David Jeck.

Fauquier County schools Superintendent David Jeck proposed Tuesday a $149.6 million budget for fiscal year 2020 that would make some cuts to staff and departments to fund raises aimed at making teacher salaries more competitive with neighboring counties. 

“Fauquier County must move toward 100-percent compensation in all steps and scales in order to attract and retain highly-qualified instructional positions in our market,” Jeck said. 

Citing an expected bump in education funding included in Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) proposed budget, Jeck said the time to focus on pay compression in the teaching ranks is now. 

“Equity and inclusion have been our focus for the last three years, but right now we have an emergency on our hands. This year, our focus had to deal with the [pay] compression issue,” Jeck said.

Last year, Fauquier County saw 2 percent of its teachers retire and about 10 percent leave for other jobs, mostly in better-paying neighboring school divisions. 

“This is not sustainable,” Jeck said. 

What’s more, within a decade, the county will be dealing with enrollment growth, Jeck added. 

Given projections, six schools will be near or at capacity: Miller, Pierce, Greenville and Ritchie elementary schools; Taylor Middle School and Liberty High School.

Jeck’s budget dedicates $7 million toward rectifying wage compression, which he would pay for by making about $2.9 million in cuts combined with expected additional revenue, about $4.9 million of which would be requested from Fauquier County.

Jeck’s proposal aims to bring teacher salaries into a 93- to 100-percent range of markets competing with Fauquier, which he defined as Albemarle, Culpeper, Frederick, Loudoun, Prince William, Spotsylvania, Stafford and Warren counties. 

A study the school commissioned from the Virginia Association of School Superintendent’s recommended hitting the 90-percent mark of neighboring staff salaries.

Under Jeck’s proposal, teachers with a master’s degree and 30 years of experience would see a 15-percent salary increase, raising their pay from the current $54,404 to $62,542. 

At the lower end of the pay scale, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree beginning at “step 2” would earn 3 percent more: $45,475 a year rather than the current $43,870. The new salaries would take effect in August, Jeck said.

The total cost of revising teacher compensation would be about $6.1 million, Jeck said.

Psychologist, therapist and social worker salaries would be adjusted to equal about 90 percent of salaries paid in the surrounding market. Nurses would move to the scale of salaries paid to those with a bachelor’s degree. Instructional assistants would see a 2 percent increase, while salaries paid to principals and assistant principals would rise by 2 percent.

Those adjustments come at a cost of $881,000, contributing to a grand total for salary increases of about $7 million. 

Proposed cuts

And where will this money come from? Jeck proposed itemized savings from a variety of cost-cutting measures. 

“About $2.9 million will come out of our budget,” Jeck said. Another portion will come from “breakage,” referring to the amount saved when a highly-paid teacher retires and is replaced by a lower-salaried one. 

Minimum class sizes would also rise under Jeck’s plan. High schools may see up to three more students per class, while middle school class sizes could rise by five students, Jeck said. 

Jeck would also cut eight teaching positions “with minimal impact to class size,” he said.

“It will happen through attrition,” he added. “Most of those are already covered by announced retirements.”

Additionally, there would be a partial hiring freeze, administrative reductions, program restructuring and more cost-sharing of health-insurance costs, with employees paying about $20 a month more in premiums.

The plan also factors in about $400,000 from the school division’s new energy-savings contract.

Jeck also listed non-traditional benefits to be implemented for staff, including access to a 55-day family sick-leave bank; 13 paid days off without restriction for type of leave; a loyalty bonus and other perks.

The numbers

“Local government is the largest investor for public education in Fauquier County,” according to Jeck’s budget presentation. Fauquier County taxpayers are expected to contribute 63 percent of the school division budget or about $94.2 million.

The state is expected to contribute 32 percent, about $48.5 million, while the federal government covers about 3 percent, at $4.3 million. About 2 percent or $2.5 million was attributed to “other” sources.

School board members called the proposal “aggressive” and thanked Jeck for heeding requests that came out of their November retreat. 

“It looks like you heard everything we said,” School Board Vice Chair Donna Grove (Cedar Run) told Jeck at the presentation’s conclusion. 

“I just want to compliment you on all the items you identified where we could pare down,” said School Board member Duke Bland (Marshall).

Jeck’s slide presentation is available on the Fauquier County Schools website.

The school board will further discuss the proposed budget at its Feb. 27 meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. in the Falcon Room at Fauquier High School. 

Reach Karen Chaffraix at kchaffraix@fauquier.com

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