School board talks budget

Published 10:46 am Wednesday, March 8, 2017

School board members in Lunenburg met Thursday at Central High School to discuss its upcoming fiscal year (FY) 2017-18 budget — one that could include a two percent salary increase for all staff.

Division Superintendent Dr. Charles Berkley presented a presentation detailing the county’s needs assessment budget.

Berkley said while the budget was not fixed or final, it did include things the division needs money for.

“This isn’t a budget of what we want — it’s of what we need,” Berkley said at the start of the presentation.

Revenues for the 2017-18 school year are forecasted at $17,055,228. Excluding grant funding or food service funding, the revenues are estimated to be $14,917,233, according to Berkley.

The estimated expenditures for next year stand at $15,425,983. This leaves the school district’s expenditures $508,755 beyond their projected revenue without grants and cafeteria funds.

Some items on the needs assessment budget include a mandatory state retirement increase, school bus replacements, teacher salary increase, HVAC replacements and property maintenance, renovations and repairs, including the football field, track and sidewalks.

“We’ve been making improvements to our football

field,” Berkley said. “But we cannot host a track meet because the track (needs so much repair).”

The Virginia Retirement System is projecting a 1.78 percent increase in the employer contributions for professional employees. This includes a retirement percentage hike from 14.66 percent to 16.32 percent and a health credit hike from 1.11 percent to 1.23 percent, according to Berkley. The increase would benefit teachers, administrators, aides, clerical, technology employees and secretaries.

In addition to the mandatory employer contribution increase, the Lunenburg County School Board is looking to increase its employee’s wages by two percent in the 2017-18 school year.

“We are about four steps (between about $7,200 and $7,300) short of the average annual salary for teachers in the United States,” Berkley said. “Most schools in the area are looking to give their teachers at least a two percent increase, some as much as a five percent increase. It’s sad to see teachers come in and … leave a few years later (for a higher wage).”

The needs assessment budget also sets aside money to replace old buses and buy new ones. Last year, the school division was unable to purchase a new bus, whereas most districts replace two on average, Berkley said. This year the school was only able to afford one new bus. The cost of each bus is approximately $77,000.

“We have to take make big changes in small steps. We need to think of the students first,” Berkley said during the meeting. “We’re doing the best we can with what we have. We’re not asking for anything extra.”

The school board will submit its final budget request at the Lunenburg County Board of Supervisors’ meeting April 13.