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By PAMELA GOULD
The Spotsylvania School Board has kicked off discussions of the division's next budget with a projected shortfall of $7.9 million.
Chief Financial Officer LaShahn Gaines told the board during a work session last week that "we desperately need revenue increases from the [county] and the state."
Gaines attributed the expected shortfall for the operating budget to several factors. The biggest is the loss of Education Jobs Funding, the federal stimulus money that had provided $2.9 million but expired this year.
She also projected a $2.3 million increase in health care costs, a $2.2 million hike in mandatory costs such as special-education services and utility bills, as well as an increase in what the division will need to contribute toward the state retirement fund.
Spotsylvania schools have been dealing with budget cuts since fiscal 2010.
Division staff also provided an update on the schools Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2014-18.
Gaines said the division may need to consider requesting a new bond referendum to pay for long-term purchases.
Between fiscal 2016 and 2018, the board may need to borrow $43.3 million for the following:
$9 million to buy 60, 77-passenger school buses and 18 special education buses;
$15.3 million for technology such as replacement computers and electronic tablets;
$18.9 million for maintenance projects for schools and other division buildings.
If the idea for a bond referendum is supported by the School Board, the process would need to begin in February in order to get the issue on the November 2014 ballot for county voters.
The board is slated to vote on the proposed CIP at its Nov. 26 meeting.
At the work session, the board briefly discussed how to prioritize spending for the fiscal 2014 budget, which begins July 1.
For this year's budget, the board's top priorities were to provide a pay hike for employees, or at least avoid reducing salaries.
Most employees received a 5.8 percent pay increase for this school year but it is offset by a state requirement that the division contribute 5 percent of their pay to the Virginia Retirement System. Previously, the state made the contribution for employees.
Employees at the director level and above received a 5 percent pay hike.
Most employees received a $600 bonus and a 1 percent cost-of-living increase in the 2011-12 school year.
The previous two school years, the staff received no pay hike and top central office administrators lost money as a result of three furlough days.
Board member Gil Seaux said his top priority is student achievement followed by maintaining class size.
"I'm very supportive of our people. That's not the point," he said. "To me, it's back to the student first."
Board member Dawn Shelley said she was concerned about teachers who have been "working twice as hard as two years ago." Decreasing class sizes would be a help to them, she said.
Meyer said he wants a list of the division's needs that the board could then prioritize.
"I'm not talking about wants or wishes," Meyer said. "I'm talking about needs."
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972