No bigger county budget for Rappahannock schools

At Tuesday’s monthly Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Bob Chappell presented his proposed budget, which calls for a zero increase for the county’s share over last year’s budget. Board members planned to meet in a work session next week to go over the budget’s details.

Once the school board approves a final budget, the Board of Supervisors will make a final decision in early May. During this process, the school board invites public comment at its next monthly meeting, which is March 9.

Public attendance and participation at this week’s budget presentation, however, was minimal. The superintendent’s office had prepared 50 copies of the draft budget, but no more than 12 citizens were in the audience. Only one of them identified herself as a concerned parent. The remainder were mostly concerned employees — teachers.

In submitting his latest and what will be his last budget, the retiring superintendent said that it was “with much regret” that he was not proposing any kind of salary increase for teachers and support employees. They deserved an increase, Chappell said, “because of the high quality of education they provide Rappahannock children.” But a simple step increase in pay would have been a $115,000 budget increase.

He also did not propose that the county pick up the state’s elimination of technology funding of $102,000, for which he hoped the Headwaters Foundation would help. To replace two school buses that are 15 years old would have cost $150,000, which Chappell also did not request, even though state standards suggest replacement after 10-12 years.

The bottom line, the proposed budget for 2010-2011, is $11,575,559, compared to the current year’s budget of $11,602.017. The $26,458 drop is primarily a function of decreased state funding, Chappell said.

The county funding of the total budget would remain the same — $8,509,098. This represents approximately 73 percent of the total budget. Should the state’s contribution drop even further, Chappell suggested that the board develop contingency plans for such a worst-case scenario.

The superintendent’ proposed budget did include some line-item increases, especially in such required expenses as retirement premiums and health insurance. He also proposed putting the varsity football and basketball programs back into the Virginia High School League.

In comments the board, David Gillis, a math teacher, expressed concern about how the budget might affect faculty morale: “It is difficult to reenergize and stay supercharged when the recognition isn’t there.”

Chappell, in his presentation, repeatedly acknowledged and praised the faculty’s achievements and those of the students they taught. Rappahannock County Schools have proved, he said, that “small can be successful.”

In other business, Chappell addressed the necessity of “make-up days” because of all the snow. Instead of extending the school year, he suggested that make-up days come during spring vacation — specifically April 6-9 and June 9-11. Having school on Saturdays was also a possibility, suggested board chairman John Wesley Mills.