Highland Supervisors Nix School Board Salary Request
Monterey, VA – The Highland County School Board asked the Board of Supervisors to consider two changes to the current year’s school budget, a salary increase for teachers and staff and the addition of air conditioning to several school rooms. At the November Board of Supervisors meeting the School Board asked the Supervisors to appropriate money from the Federal Jobs program funding for a one step salary increase for teachers and a 2% raise for school staff, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers and custodians.
This would cost about $40,600. The total Federal Jobs funding slated to come to the school amounts to a little over $73,000. Supervisor Jerry Rexrode opposes this increase.
“I think you need to have a reality check” says Rexrode. “I said last time I think you need to look at where’s your funding going to be for next year, and here’s your state projection for next year – the state is going to cut Highland County schools by $113,569.00 – that’s next year.”
Supervisor Rexrode is looking at the impact of an increase this year on future county budgets. He is also concerned about proposed state cuts to the school next year and how the county will make up that funding without raising taxes. The Federal Jobs money would nearly cover the salary increases proposed by the School Board for about 2 years and after that money is used up, the county would have to pay for the increase.
Supervisor Rexrode’s main argument is that it would be better for the School Board to save the Federal Jobs funding until next year and use it to offset cuts from the state, rather than use it this year for a salary increase. Supervisor Robin Sullenberger takes a different approach to the School Board’s salary increase request.
“We were fortunate enough this past week to have a VACO [Virginia Association of Counties] conference at the Homestead” says Sullenbarger. “During those kinds of things you have an opportunity to talk to an incredible number of people who are I think much more savvy and much more experienced with money things than any of us because they deal with such huge amounts of money and work with the states, in some cases for 30 or 40 years. Here’s the big thing that I heard from all of the people with a lot of experience in financing – you never ever make a decision in the middle of a budget year that affects recurring costs for your jurisdiction.”
The rationale for his position is that the county budget process includes public hearings. This change in the school budget, because it involves Federal flow through money would be made without a public hearing, so there would be no opportunity for county residents to have their say on the matter before the vote. Supervisor Sullenberger made an alternative proposal to the School Board.
He would agree to give the teachers and staff a 2% bonus this year from the Federal Jobs fund money, but would not agree at this time to a salary increase that would obligate county funds in future years when the Federal money is used up. He suggested to the School Board that if they still want to give the teachers a step and the staff a raise next year, then bring it forward as part of the normal school budget process so that county residents can make comments. The supervisors did not vote on the School Board’s salary increase request and suggested that they reconsider the matter.
In other business, the Supervisors voted to approve the School Board request for installation of air conditioning for several rooms in the school. This $82,000 would come from the school capital improvement fund administered by the county.