Page County Schools Superintendent proposes 2.9 percent increase from county
Page News and CourierLURAY, Jan. 14 — Page County Public Schools wants raises.
Superintendent Donna Power told school board members Monday night she is including a 2-percent raise for all school employees in her fiscal 2014 proposal. The division has not seen a pay increase since fiscal 2008.
The school system has unsuccessfully sought a 2-percent raise for all employees in its last two budget cycles, beginning in 2011. That year, the division asked the county for $13.9 million; instead, the county contributed $13.2 million — the same amount it contributed the previous year.
School officials again hoped to include a 2-percent raise during last year's budget cycle, totaling about $400,000. The proposed increase was eventually scrapped, due to a shortfall in federal jobs money, coupled with a Virginia Retirement System mandate that increased the division's spending by about $148,000, beginning in the current fiscal year.
Once again, the county last year contributed $13.2 million dollars.
Dr. Power said Monday the division is seeking $13.5 million from the county in the coming fiscal year — an increase of $382,057, or 2.9 percent. The superintendent's proposal increases total spending to $37.1 million — $159,499 (or 0.4 percent) more than the current fiscal budget.
Those numbers do not include food service or the division's employee health insurance trust, which are separately funded.
“The increase to the budget is only less than 1 percent,” Dr. Power told school board members. “I think a less-than 1 percent increase is very, very good.”
The proposed $37.1 million budget is anchored by a “per-pupil formula,” the superintendent continued. That per-pupil allotment — Average Daily Membership (ADM) — drives state funds for public education. ADM differs from actual enrollment in that it represents the average number of enrolled students.
A school division's ADM is determined by dividing its average daily attendance by the total number of days a division is in session. The ADM that funds Virginia public schools is based on the first day of school through March 31 every school year.
While Page County Public Schools' current budget is built on an ADM of 3,450, Dr. Power said her proposed 2014 budget is based on an ADM of 3,425. Anytime a division overestimates its ADM, it faces a budget shortfall.
The superintendent's proposal reflects a projected $16.9 million in state funds and $1.6 million in federal funds. Those projections combine to total a $420,000 loss in funds from the schools' current budget.
Dr. Power included a 10.1-percent decrease in pupil transportation costs, totaling about $215,000. She said she aims to decrease those costs by converting the division's buses to lease.
The local school system will see a $15,430 decrease in debt service in fiscal 2014. Payments on those loans — the result of the county's two new high schools, which opened in 2009 — reached an all-time high in the current budget cycle, but will continue to decrease each year after, beginning in 2014.
Noting that the two high schools were a county-wide endeavor, Dr. Power told school board members their expenses should be a shared undertaking.
“It is important that the county recognizes that we have not been able to sustain all of the costs associated with operating those schools,” the superintendent said. “Because they always have been proposed as county schools, [the county has] as much obligation.”
Dr. Power said she planned to present information about the upcoming budget to the Page County Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday. The superintendent wasn't set to finalize her proposal until Jan. 21, but surprised school board members Monday night by presenting it two weeks ahead of schedule.
School officials held a pre-budget public hearing at the start of Monday night's meeting, but the hearing drew no speakers. The local school system will hold at least one more hearing on its upcoming budget on March 18.