Draft school budget starts by holding the line

Although school board members spent some time afterwards discussing adding more than $100,000 for athletics-related positions, superintendent Donna Matthews presented a draft 2015-2016 budget last Thursday (Feb. 12) at the high school that would increase last year’s $9.09 million county-funding tab by just $27,700.

Matthews’ $12.5 million draft includes step increases for specific employees and salary-scale changes for custodians, nurses and secretaries; splits the facilities and athletics director position, now a single post, into two full-time positions; adds about $20,000 for stipends, averaging $500, to those who now act as volunteer assistant coaches for Rappahannock’s athletic teams (head coaches do get a stipend); and accounts for attrition-related decreases in food-services and finance-department staffing, and an overall decrease in personnel costs due to retirements and new hires in 2015.

It also moves some federal funding into positions formerly covered by the school division’s local-state funding formula (currently an 80-20 split, respectively). She said the state’s annual budget-making decisions, though farther along this year than last, will keep her from formulating a final budget proposal until next month.

“We’re a long way from knowing what the real numbers will be,” Matthews said.

Matthews’ presentation covered — although the budget does not include any funding for — various facilities-improvement projects. These include upgrading of restroom, parking-lot and other facilities to comply with federal accessibility standards (an accessibility audit at the schools last year requires the shortcomings be resolved within five years); window replacements, mostly at the elementary school; a bus radio-system upgrade; and upgrading of the bus garage’s aging fuel-management system.

She said later that board members should begin discussing ways to pay for some of the improvements with state-subsidized loans; the window-replacement project would be the most costly of those she mentioned; she estimated the cost could be $400,000 to $500,000, but stressed that the division won’t know until it issues requests for proposals.

After Matthews’ presentation, and comments by just a single member of the public at this, the board’s first public hearing on its 2015-2016 budget, school board members discussed at length the pros and cons of adding two new positions, both sports-related: an additional physical-education instructor ($52,000, plus benefits) and a new position, athletic trainer, at an estimated $56,000 plus benefits.

The board holds public work session of its finance committee at 8 at the school board offices this morning (Thursday, Feb. 19), and holds a joint school board-supervisors public hearing 7 p.m. March 16 at the high school auditorium.

Roger Piantadosi
About Roger Piantadosi 545 Articles
Former Rappahannock News editor Roger Piantadosi is a writer and works on web and video projects for Rappahannock Media and his own Synergist Media company. Before joining the News in 2009, he was a staff writer, editor and web developer at The Washington Post for almost 30 years.