The $12.63 million 2012-2013 budget proposal submitted by Rappahannock County Superintendent Dr. Aldridge Boone proposes increased spending of $936,802. Almost 80 percent of this new spending is consumed by salary and benefit increases for school employees. If approved, the taxpayers of our county will be footing the bill for a staggering salary and benefit increase of almost 12 percent for school employees. The fact that much of this increase is beyond Dr. Boone’s direct control does not absolve him and the school board of addressing this issue more responsibly.
This budget issue will not go away. Salary increases are a part of life and huge increases in both health insurance costs and retirement funding are projected for years to come. As a consequence, Richmond has already begun to shift the burden of Virginia Retirement System (“VRS”) funding down to the local level and there is pending legislation to continue this trend.
This should all be a clarion cry to our county residents – more fiscal discipline is required, now! With our student population flat-lining or declining, we can no longer continue to simply pass on budget increases to the taxpayers of Rappahannock County. Reasonable salary increases must be accompanied with corresponding reductions in other budget areas. For instance: school employee contributions for both health care premiums and VRS contributions for those “Plan 2” employees, hired after July 1, 2010, should be implemented. (Unlike folks in the private sector, our school employees currently contribute zero percent of their salary for a very generous VRS retirement plan. They also contribute none of their salary for an equally generous employee health and life insurance package). Reductions in all other budget areas, including personnel, should also be “on the table.”
The recent school board work session demonstrated that most school board members have no intention of addressing these important concerns.
I urge each member of our county board of supervisors to weigh the fiscal impact of these structural realities as they consider the superintendent’s budget proposal.
Jeffrey E. Knight