Those who attended Monday night’s Fauquier County School Board meeting – in person or via livestream video -- got a first look at the superintendent of schools’ proposed fiscal year 2021 school division budget. If Superintendent David Jeck’s budget were to be approved by the school board as is, board members would be asking the county for about $3.8 million more this year than last. The total budget is about $7.5 million more than last year, but because of a dip in the composite index (which the state uses to decide how much funding each county will get), Fauquier will likely receive about $4 million more from the state than last year. Federal funding will decrease by about $268,000, but Fauquier will still come out ahead.
In other positive budget news, an energy-savings plan is resulting in solid savings that the school division is using to pay for some school maintenance projects that would otherwise need to be funded out of the operating budget. Jeck said that ramped-up grant applications are also paying dividends.
He added that while neighboring school districts will be experiencing up to 30% increases in health insurance rates, Fauquier County will see a 4% increase, “which is manageable,” he said. Jeck explained that the county’s Wellness Center, which serves school division and county employees, is helping to keep health insurance claims down. The Wellness Center allows county employees and their families to schedule doctor visits at the clinic, get vaccinations and access wellness coaching – all for free.
Budget priorities outlined by Jeck included school safety, equity and teacher compensation.
The proposed compensation plan is designed to bring school division employee salaries closer to their peers in nearby districts. Under Jeck’s plan, for instance:
- Teachers would get a 3% raise.
- School nurses would be moved to the certified employee compensation scale over two years, Jeck said, “which would put them at 100% of market. This was/is a budget priority for our school board.”
- The minimum wage for the school division would be increased to $10.50, which would raise salaries for cafeteria monitors, who currently earn an hourly rate lower than that.
According to the plan, all employee compensation would be brought to 90% to 100% of nearby localities, although Jeck pointed out that as Fauquier raises its salaries, so do other school districts.
In his budget presentation to the school board, Jeck addressed questions of equity – like adding a full-time agricultural teacher so that all middle schools have a dedicated full-time instructor. He also outlined some school safety issues – like putting more cameras in the schools and on buses, and more secure entrances. “Our schools were not designed with major security in mind. In the current environment, we need to have secure schools. And that is expensive,” he said.
The board of supervisors will take a critical look at the school division-proposed budget in March and the final budget would be adopted by the school board in early April.